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Changes to the Republic of Korea’s Substitute Holiday Bill: June 2021

When you hire employees abroad you will need to keep track of which public holidays they are entitled to, many of which may be new to you.  Complicating matters further is the fact that some countries make regular changes to public holiday entitlements, which is the case recently in South Korea.

What is the Substitute Holiday Bill in South Korea?

Passed in 2013, the Substitute Holiday Bill declared that employees were entitled to one extra day off – if a holiday fell on a Saturday or Sunday.  It only could be used for one time for three specific holidays, resulting in a three-day weekend.

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What is the new Transfer Holiday Expansion Law in South Korea effective June 2021?

The Transfer Holiday Expansion Law expanded on the policy behind the Substitute Holiday Bill, because of the fact that South Koreans have fewer public holidays than many countries.

It is designed to address the situation when a public holiday falls on a weekend, effectively reducing the number of total public holidays in a year.  It expanded the original Substitute Holiday Bill to include all public holidays that fall on a weekend, which will now be taken on Monday.  Naturally, those will change each year.

Who is affected by the New Transfer Holiday Expansion Law?

The original law only applied to the public sector at first, but then was expanded gradually for private companies.  The new expansion law will apply to:

  • Companies with 30 employees or more in 2021
  • Companies with five employees or more in 2022

Employees of those eligible companies will be entitled to take the substitute Monday as a paid holiday.  If you are employing less than five South Korean employees you don’t have to offer the extra paid holiday, but it may be a good idea for employee morale.

Client Case: Which public holidays are affected by the Transfer Holiday Expansion in 2021?

Context: A client of ours with employees in South Korea wanted to know specifically which public holidays would be affected by the new law.

Solution: We let them know that four holidays would be affected and observed on a Monday in 2021:

  • National Liberation Day from Sunday Aug 15th to Monday Aug 16th
  • National Foundation Day from Sunday October 3rd to Monday October 4rd
  • Hangul Proclamation Day from Sunday October 10th to Monday October 11th
  • Christmas Day from Saturday December 25th to Monday December 27th

Do you need more information about the Republic of Korea?

If you are new to employing in the Republic of Korea, you may have additional questions such as:

If an employee chooses to work on a substitute holiday, are they entitled to any additional compensation?

If a company has less than five employees, can they offer the substitute holiday as unpaid leave?

Are there penalties for qualified employers who refuse to offer the substitute holiday?

Questions like these arise with our clients frequently, and we keep them updated with changes in leave entitlements and holidays so that they remain in compliance.  We make international employment simple.

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