By Jun Ji-hye
A reentry limitation applied to foreign workers under the Employment Permit System (EPS) will be shortened to one month from the current three months, beginning from Thursday, to better guarantee work continuity especially for small manufacturing businesses as well as agricultural, fishing and dairy industries, the Ministry of Employment and Labor said, Wednesday.
The measure is part of new enforcement ordinances and regulations for the revised Act on the Employment of Foreign Workers that was passed at the National Assembly in March.
Currently, foreign workers can work in Korea under the EPS for up to four years and 10 months.
If the workers have worked for only one employer during that period, they are given reentry benefits and can work for an additional four years and 10 months. But they had been required to depart the country and must not return for three months. This rule had been raising complaints for causing a manpower shortage.
"The revision is aimed at reducing the reentry limitation period from three months to one month to resolve this problem," a ministry official said.
The revision expanded beneficiaries of this policy, as some workers could not get new jobs even if they were switching employers because of unfair treatment, in order to meet the requirement of working for one place for four years and 10 months to receive the reentry benefits.
This requirement has also caused difficulties for employers in recruiting skilled workers, because employers who want to keep employing such workers after reentry could not do so if the workers had changed their workplaces at least once and thus disqualified themselves from the reentry benefits.
Under the revision, the reentry benefits will be given to workers even if they changed their workplaces, as long as they have worked for the same industries among small manufacturing businesses as well as agricultural, fishing and dairy sectors for four years and 10 months.
The revision is also aimed at supporting foreign workers who switch jobs due to circumstances beyond their control, such as violence or sex offences.
In this case, before the revision went into effect, those workers were allowed to change jobs but had to have more than one year left on their contract to be offered reentry benefits. Thus, some put up with mistreatment and abuse at work to meet the one-year requirement for reentry benefits.
Under the revision, those who have switched jobs due to such reasons have the opportunity of getting reentry benefits even if less than one year is left on their contract. This requires a panel for protection of rights and interests ― composed of officials from local governments and representatives of employers' groups, labor groups and foreign workers' groups ― to agree with the need to offer the benefits.