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Maternity Leave Being Exploited to Let Go of Staff

Posted March. 05, 2009 09:24,   


A 31-year-old woman who works for a small company will begin a long-term maternity leave next month.

She will have no post to return after her leave ends, however. In other words, she has been effectively laid off.

Eight months pregnant and under heavy pressure to resign, the woman agreed with her company to take the leave. She also agreed to pay all of her health insurance premiums.

“I will receive 1.35 million won (870 U.S. dollars) a month over the three-month childbirth leave and 500,000 won (322 dollars) a month for up to 12 months over the maternity leave,” she said.

“Since I have no choice but to resign, this is a better way for me to raise childrearing costs.”

With the economic crisis deepening, maternity leave is more often being exploited as a way of letting go workers. While the government and economic organizations are staging a national job sharing campaign, companies are increasingly pressuring to resign pregnant women, who are the most vulnerable in tough economic times.

The Labor Ministry said the number of women who collected maternity leave pay was 29,145 last year, up 37.5 percent from 2007. The combined amount paid out was 98.4 billion won (63.4 million dollars), up 61.4 percent.

Between December last year to January this year, the number of women who collected maternity leave pay reached 5,245, up 22 percent from 4,282 year-on-year.

The ministry in a news release last month said the maternity leave system was taking root in Korea, but the latest data suggests this is not the case.

According to the Korean Women Workers Association, phone counseling for dismissal caused by pregnancy and childbirth accounted for 55.7 percent of all cases last year, up from 34.8 percent in 2007.