Basic legal points about part-time employees

A couple of months ago, I got a question from a foreign CEO of a company in Korea. He was in trouble for not paying the overtime pay to his part-time employees. He did not know that law related to part-time employees had changed a few years ago to the effect that even within the legal working hours (40 hours per week), part-time employees should be paid for their overtime work. The lack of English information on part-time employees is responsible for such unfortunate situation. In this post, I cover the very basic legal points about part-time employees so that foreign CEOs and managers using such workers may avoid legal problems.

1. Definition of a part-time employee

The definition of a part-time employee by law is an employee whose contractual working hours per week are shorter than those of a full-time employee engaged in the same kind of job in the same workplace. The legal definition does not use certain work hours, for example 35 hours per week, as a criterion for determining someone as a part-time employee. However, a part-time employee with very short work hours is exempt from social insurances and some articles of the Labor Standards Act as shown below.

2. Social insurance for part-time employees

An employer should should enroll in mandatory social insurance schemes for part-time employees. However, part-time employees with very short working hours are excluded from the insurances as follows.

– National pension

An employer does not have to enroll in the pension scheme for a part-time employee whose contractual working hours per month are less than 60 hours per month.

– Health insurance

The same as national pension.

– Employment insurance

An employer does not have to enroll in the insurance scheme for a part-time employee whose contractual working hours per month are less than 60 hours per month or those with contractual weekly working hours of less than 15 hours. However, the employer should enroll in the scheme if a part-time employee with the above-mentioned work hours provide labor for three months or more to earn a primary income.

– Worker’s compensation

A part-time employee, regardless of his working hours, is covered by the scheme.

3. Restriction on overtime work

When an employer wants to have a part-time employee work overtime, he should obtain the consent of the employee. The weekly overtime hours should not exceed 12 hours. A part-time employee may refuse to work overtime, if the employer orders him to work overtime without obtaining his consent.

An employer should pay 50 percent or more of the ordinary wage, or what we call one-and-half, for overtime work in excess of the contractual working hours. Even if the contractual working hours of a part-time employee are shorter than the statutory working hours (40 hours per week), the employer should still pay the overtime wage.

4. Other working conditions for part-time employees

Weekly holidays and paid annual leave apply to part-time employees. However, these conditions do not apply to a part-time employee whose contractual work hours per week on an average of four weeks (in cases where his working periods are less than four weeks, on an average of such period of working) are less than 15 hours.