Small businesses with five to 49 employees began to implement a 52-hour workweek Thursday as mandated by law.
Under a revision to the Labor Standards Act, the government began enforcing the 52-hour workweek system in 2018, starting with firms with 300 or more employees in July of that year.
In January 2020, the system began to be applied to firms with 50 to 299 employees, and on Thursday, to smaller businesses.
South Korea has among the longest working hours among the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the 52-hour workweek was adopted to try to relieve the burden on workers.
Small firms have protested that the cap will limit their ability to meet production deadlines and otherwise hurt their business.
They previously called for a grace period during which they would be immune from punishment for violations of the 52-hour workweek, but the Ministry of Employment and Labor rejected that request last month.
Citing a survey it commissioned in April, the ministry said 93 percent of small businesses stood ready to implement the system in July, with around 82 percent having already begun.
The government had given grace periods to the two previous batches of companies with more employees.
According to 2019 business data, South Korea has more than 783,000 firms with five to 49 employees. They employ a total of 7.8 million workers.
The ministry said it will offer a range of measures to support the transition to a 52-hour workweek.
Under a revised law that took effect in April, employers are required to ensure an average of up to 52 hours a week over a period of six months instead of three, which means they have greater leeway to ask employees to work more during weeks with heavy workloads.
In the case of firms with five to 29 employees, the management can reach a written agreement with workers to allow up to 60 hours a week until the end of next year.
The ministry has also been providing tailored consulting services through its regional offices and offering subsidies to businesses needing to hire more people as a result of the new workweek system. (Yonhap)