NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on the Rights of Parcel Delivery Workers
- NHRCK calls for urgent measures to resolve the issue of extended working hours without a rest break and provide legal protection for delivery workers-
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Chairperson Young-ae Choi) expresses its deep sympathies over the deaths of parcel delivery workers, extends its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and releases the following statement on the rights of delivery workers.
Courier deliver demand has increased sharply, with an increasing number of people opting for online transactions amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid a spike in shipping volume, delivery workers are required to work long hours without a rest break. The harsh working conditions of delivery workers is widely believed to be the cause of the recent deaths of multiple workers.
Delivery workers are classified under the current laws and regulations as a special type of employment. They are categorized as a self-employed person and do not qualify for protection under labor laws. Protecting the rights of special-type workers has been identified as a key priority that deserves urgent attention of our society.
The rights to life and safety are the most basic and fundamental human rights. Safe and healthy working conditions are universal and fundamental rights of all workers guaranteed under international human rights conventions and international labor standards.
The International Labor Organization(ILO) adopted the first convention that limits working hours to 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week at the first session held in 1919, fully aware of the threats posed by prolonged working hours to the life and safety of workers and the heightened risk of occupational accidents under such conditions. A survey conducted by Work and Health in September 2020 found that parcel delivery workers work an average of six days or 71.3 hours per week and more than 12 hours per day, which falls far short of the international standards introduced about a century ago.
Moreover, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, published in 2011, emphasize the state duty to protect human rights and the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in its business activities. States and businesses should take prompt measures to prevent the violation of workers‘ rights to life and health, including through recruitment of additional employees handling and sorting parcels, adoption of the optimal level of daily handling volume for individual workers and application of a five-day workweek.
The Commission has repeatedly recommended that separate laws be legislated or relevant provisions of the Labor Law and Social Security Act be revised to ensure protection of labor rights and legal protection of workers in a special type of employment. In particular, in 2014, it made recommendations calling for the abolition of a policy that allows special-type workers to apply for cancellation of occupational accident insurance coverage, the introduction of premium exemption or subsidies and the provision of insurance coverage for all special-type workers. The Commission continues to gather feedback from various stakeholders, including delivery workers themselves, and deliberate on related bills in an effort to improve the human rights situation of delivery workers and provide legal protection for them.
It is encouraging that major courier delivery companies have put forward measures to increase protection of their workers, but more efforts are needed to achieve tangible progress in this regard. Moreover, the Commission calls on lawmakers to deliberate on and pass bills on the rights of special-type workers that are pending at the National Assembly to bring about visible improvements in compensation and working conditions of delivery workers. The life and safety of workers are fundamental rights that should be protected in the process of providing labor. The Commission, on its part, will work hard to create a society where workers currently outside the protection of relevant laws can enjoy their basic rights.
※ Special-type worker: A person who works for an employer under a contract, but offers goods or services directly to the client; a special-type worker determines their own working conditions and gets paid based on the amount of work done