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Focus on business not laws

Nov 21,2019
The government has trotted out another makeshift measure to cover up for an earlier half-baked policy. It vowed to provide a “sufficient grace” period for the new 52-hour workweek rule for workplaces employing fewer than 300 that goes into effect at the beginning of next year. It will also allow an extension of “extraordinary overtime” for “management causes,” instead of the usual “emergency cases.” The measures are readied in case the legislative does not pass the revisions to the flextime clauses to cushion the shock on smaller-scale employers from the reduced work hours.

The measures cannot be a solution. A grace period is a waiver on punishment for violation of the law. It still makes employers who cannot afford reduced work hours “potential” criminals. The extension of special overtime also cannot be of great help. An employer must seek workers’ consent and later state authorization for working employees beyond the statutory work hour.

“Sufficient” grace period is also ambiguous. The Ministry of Employment and Labor originally set the waiver period for 12 to 18 months depending on the workplace scale. But in announcing the measure, it changed the specific period to “sufficient.” It may have tried to avoid stoking protest from the labor sector. Small-sized companies received a relief period for now but still must work against the timetable to shift to the new working hours.

The government has conducted a thorough study before enforcing the new workweek rule. It did not consider the special features of each workplace like a lab that cannot work against a strict clock. It also did not take into account the restricted staffing and resources faced by small employers. Even bigger companies employing more than 300 required nine months of a grace period to adapt to the new workweek rule.

The legislative also has not done its part. The agreement to extend flextime was hard-won at the tripartite meeting including labor and employer representatives. But the legislative has been sitting on the revised bill because it is too busy wrangling over political issues.

The bill is automatically killed if it does not pass by Dec. 10. Employers cannot rely on waivers on penalties. The bill must pass to remove management uncertainties. The legislative must do its duty and help companies focus on business without the risk of breaking laws.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 20, Page 34