NHRCK Chairperson's Statement Welcoming Revision of Anti-Workplace Bullying Laws
- NHRCK highlights the need to abolish exemptions for a small business employing fewer than five employees going forward -
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Young-ae Choi) releases the following statement welcoming the National Assembly's approval of the amendments to the Labor Standards Act and Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act, which include new rules relating to workplace bullying.
On July 2 2020, the Commission recommended the Minister of Employment and Labor to take measures for the prevention of workplace bullying and protection of victims, including protecting workers from bullying by third parties, extending its application to a small business with fewer than five employees, introducing penalties for perpetrators as well as employers who fail to conduct investigations or remedial measures, and requiring employers to provide workplace bullying prevention training.
In light of the Commission's recommendations, the National Assembly passed the amendments to the Labor Standards Act. The revised law imposes fines of up to 10 million won on an employer who committed bullying against an employee and fines of up to 5 million won for an employer's breach of obligations related to investigation and remedial actions and disclosure of confidential information. In addition, the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act was revised to provide protections for workers from bullying by a third party such as a customer and prohibit unfavorable treatment of workers.
The Labor Standards Act explicitly bans workplace bullying, but is considered limited in its effectiveness as it does not set out penalties for bullying behavior or an employer's breach of obligations to conduct an investigation and remedial action. The Commission, therefore, welcomes the National Assembly's adoption of penalty clauses which will provide the basis for the elimination of workplace bullying and enforcement of related laws. However, the amendments still restrict the scope of penalties to cases where the perpetrator is an employer or a relative of the employer and do not address bullying by other parties such as an apartment resident or a contractor.
Moreover, despite our recommendations, the new law allows exemptions for a small business employing fewer than five employees, although bullying is a more serious issue and happens more frequently in a small business where frequent contact with the victim is unavoidable.
Despite these shortcomings, the amendment of the existing laws at least represents a step in the right direction given the prevalence of workplace bullying in our society and the recent tragic incidents that undermine the dignity of workers in different forms of employment.
The government and the National Assembly should continue their efforts to further revise and improve the laws pertaining to workplace bullying. The Commission will do its part to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for every worker.