More Workers to Enjoy Parental Leave
By Kwon Mee-yoo
More workers can now take parental leave if their children are under six years old.
The Ministry of Labor passed a revision on Wednesday to the Act on Equal Employment and Support for Work-Family Reconciliation, or the Employment Equity Act for short, which will expand the range of workers eligible for parental leave. Now parents with preschoolers under six years old can benefit.
The leave allows employees to take a certain number of paid days off from work to care for their children. The parents can also take unpaid leave if they use up all of their paid days. This includes maternity, paternity and adoption leave. Currently, at private firms only workers with children three years old or less qualify for the leave.
The revised bill also makes those who adopt eligible. The ministry states this will allow them to build psychological and emotional links with the children and help with parental duties.
"As Korea is entering a time with a low birthrate and an aging society, labor policies should move toward urging more female workers to give birth and be economically productive," a ministry official said. "We will develop more measures to allow work to be compatible with taking care of a family."
However, the new bill added that only those who gave birth to or adopted children after Jan. 1, 2008 are allowed parental leave.
In 2008, the government increased the age restriction, allowing public servants to take time off for parental purposes if their children were under six years old.
Since government employees can now receive longer parental leave, the Ministry of Public Administration and Safety reformed the appointment system, letting managers employ substitutes for vacant positions when workers have left the position for more than six months.
"There was a negative atmosphere toward parental leave as vacancies were not filled and the remaining staff had an increased workload," a ministry official said. "Replacing their position temporarily will change attitudes and more public servants will feel less pressured against taking leave."