The government has set its sights on preventing bosses from piling work on staff after hours via text message or social media. The Labor Ministry on Thursday said it will gather opinions from unions and businesses about the practice by the end of the year and commission a study to determine how widespread it is.
A Labor Ministry official said, "Actual working hours are getting longer because bosses issue work orders after office hours, which is making it difficult for workers to leave their work behind."
The ministry already advised businesses last year to refrain from calling, texting or otherwise contacting staff after hours.
A study by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry last year found that 74 percent of office workers are loaded with assignments after work hours, and 60 percent reported this was causing them severe stress. But only 43.2 percent said the work their bosses pestered them about was urgent, and 30.3 percent said it was not urgent but their superiors simply loaded it on them because the technology allowed them to.
A separate study last year by the Korea Labor Institute showed that office workers spent 11.3 hours a week on average handling office work on their smartphones after work.
France last year introduced a "right to disconnect" that obliges businesses with more than 50 staff to negotiate standards allowing workers to switch off or ignore their mobile devices after work.
Lawmakers here have tabled similar regulations, and President Moon Jae-in pledged to enact those motions during his election campaign. But enforcement will not be easy. A Labor Ministry official said, "It is difficult to find legal precedents in countries other than France. The problem is that each industry presents different sets of working conditions and it's debatable which hours can be construed as official business hours."