This post will cover major points of maternity leave system of Korea. The system may confuse a foreign employer because one should consult complicated laws and regulations. It is a good idea to leave the matter to be handled by your local HR staff or HR consultants, although it won’t hurt if you have the general idea of the system. Consider this post as a snapshot to help you get such a general idea.
1. Maternity leave is 90 days with an exception for a female employee with twins.
An employer should grant a pregnant employee 90 days in maternity leave. The 90 days are calendar days, meaning that all weekly holidays (usually Sundays) and other kinds of holidays are included in the 90 days.
Based on the amendment of the Labor Standards Act that took effect in July 1, 2014*, an employee pregnant with two or more children is entitled to have 120 days of maternity leave. The amendment applies to employees who give birth after the amendment entered into force.
*Article 74 of the Labor Standard Act
2. At least 45 days of leave should be given to a female employee after childbirth
To protect the health of a female employee after childbirth, an employer should allow the employee to have at least 45 days of maternity leave after childbirth even if the employee already took more than 45 days of the leave before childbirth. In such a case, the employer may not pay the wage for the days of leave in excess of 90 days.
3. Maternity leave should be given even for miscarriage or stillbirth.
Maternity leave should be granted even in the case of miscarriage or stillbirth as follows:
- within 11 weeks into pregnancy: Five days of leave from the date of miscarriage or stillbirth
- 12~15 weeks into pregnancy: 10 days of leave from the date of miscarriage or stillbirth
- 16~21 weeks into pregnancy: 30 days of leave from the date of miscarriage or stillbirth
- 22~27 weeks into pregnancy: 60 days of leave from the date of miscarriage or stillbirth
- 28 weeks or longer into pregnancy: 90 days of leave from the date of miscarriage or stillbirth
4. Maternity leave is a paid leave.
An employer should pay wages for the first 60 days of the leave period. (In the case of an employee with twins or more, an employer pays wages for the first 75 days.) The employment insurance fund covers the wages for the remaining days of maternity leave.
However, with the “Preferentially Supported Enterprises” which are listed in the table 1 of the Enforcement Decree of the Employment Insurance Act, the Employment Insurance Fund covers the wages for the whole 90 days. In such a case, the maximum amount of wages covered by the Fund for the 90 days is 4,050,000 Won (1.35 million Won for 30 days). If an employee’s monthly wage is higher than the maximum monthly wage covered by the fund, the employer should pay the balance for the first 60 days.
Here is an example of how this system works.
Suppose you have 200 or less employees and the company is in the retail industry and you are paying 1,500,000 Won to a female employee as a monthly wage.
The wage for the whole 90 days of maternity leave for the employee is covered by the Employment Insurance Fund because your company is in one of the industries listed in the Table* of of the “Preferentially Supported Enterprises”.
However, as stated earlier, the maximum wage covered by the Employment Insurance Fund for 30 days is 1,350,000 Won, which means there is a balance of 150,000 Won. Therefore, you have to pay the employee the balance for the first 60 days (150,000 won for first month and 150,000 won for the second month). For the last 30 days, you pay nothing to the employee because an employer has an obligation to pay only for the first 60 days.
* The list of “Preferentially Supported Enterprises” from the Enforcement Decree of the Employment Insurance Act
5. You cannot dismiss an employee during maternity leave.
An employer is prohibited from dismissing a female employee during maternity leave and within 30 days after the leave.