South Korea continues to overhaul its labour and employment landscape. We look at some upcoming changes to the notice of dismissal provisions and the prohibition of workplace harassment rules – both effective this year.

Advanced Notice of Dismissal

Effective from the 15th January 2019, the advance notice requirements have changed. Under the old rules, employers were not required to give advance notice of dismissal to employees who were:

  •  on probation
  •  on a fixed term contract of 2 months or less
  •  daily rate employees hired for less than 3 months
  •  seasonal employees

The employment of these employees could be terminated immediately; all other employees were entitled to at least 30 days’ notice prior to the termination of their employment.

The changes have made the advance notice requirements consistent across all types of employees. All employees with at least 3 months service are now entitled to advance notice of dismissal or payment in lieu of notice.

Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment continues to attract attention and government resolve in South Korea. There are already existing rules requiring employers to conduct annual sexual harassment training in South Korea for all of their employees.

Changes to the Labour Standards Act will now impose a new, distinct obligation on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Specifically, employers are required to:

  •  prohibit workplace harassment;
  •  conducting prompt investigations into harassment allegations;
  •  consider paid leave or changes the employee’s terms and conditions to help protect complainants;
  •  involving the complainant in considering disciplinary action against the harasser
  •  preventing retaliation

The amendment requires employers to have policies and processes to address to address sexual harassment, including a complaint handling procedure. Existing Rules of Employment (sometimes known as “Work Rules”) will need to be amended so that they clearly set out the harassment complaints process.

Helpfully, the amendment also provides a definition of ‘harassment’ which is considered to be:

“an act of an employer (or business owner) or employee (or worker) that causes physical or mental suffering or worsens the working environment of another employee/worker by taking advantage of his/her status or relationship within the workplace beyond the appropriate scope of work.”

This amendment takes effect on 15 July 2019.

Key Takeaways

Both of these changes require employers to take steps to ensure compliance. The starting point will be look at the existing Rules of Employment (sometimes called “Work Rules”) and amend them to reflect the changes.

In relation to the workplace harassment changes, employers will need to revisit their internal processes to ensure that they can deal with complaints promptly and transparently and there are sufficient measures in place to protect complainants.