Chosun.com recently reported that over 26,000 workers in Korea over the past five and a half years became unemployed while they were on childcare or maternity leave.
After analyzing information from the Ministry of Employment and Labor, lawmaker Min Hyun Joo of the Saenuri party stated on September 13, “Over the five and a half years from 2010 to June of this year, 26,755 male and female workers who were on childcare or maternity leave were fired or resigned due to causes attributable to the company.”
According to Korea’s Labor Standards Act, it is against the law for companies to fire an employee during maternity or childcare leave or for thirty days afterwards, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as the company being unable to stay in business. In addition, the Act on the Equal Employment for Both Sexes states that employers cannot fire or discriminate against an employee because they are on childcare leave, and employees cannot be fired during the period of their leave.
Yet the number of workers who have lost their jobs while taking childcare or maternity leave has been staggering over the past five and a half years. The number was 4,025 in 2010, 4,990 in 2011, 5,665 in 2012, 5,656 in 2013, 5,193 in 2014, and 1,226 over the first six months of 2015.
According to records of the grounds for termination reported to the government, 9,706 lost their jobs due to “management needs,” 1,744 due to “closure, inability to provide wages, relocation of the company, or working conditions,” and 15,305 due to “other circumstances at the company.”
It’s said that these illegal dismissals continue because employers are rarely penalized for firing their employees during childcare or maternity leave. Those who break the law can receive up to five years in prison and be faced with a penalty of 30 million won (approximately $25,000). However, because most victims are concerned about their ability to find another job, they are reluctant to testify about their experience, and therefore the law is essentially rendered useless.