Workers to receive sickness allowance : The DONG-A ILBO

Starting from Monday, a paid sickness system will go into effect in six South Korean regions – Jongno District in Seoul, Bucheon City in Gyeonggi Province, Cheonan City in South Chungcheong Province, Pohang City in North Gyeongsang Province, Changwon City in South Gyeongsang Province and Suncheon in South Jeolla Province – to make sure that workers have days off with their income left intact, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s announcement on Sunday. Beneficiaries of this allowance receive 43,960 won a day, 60 percent of the minimum wage.

First invented in Germany in 1883, the program aims to protect a minimum level of income of workers even if they are not able to work due to injuries or disease irrelevant to work. Only South Korea and some parts of the United States do not have this system in place among the OECD member states.

Workers aged 15 to less than 65 in the six regions in question can apply for this benefit program. Not only wage earners but also self-employed workers, artists (who have subscribed to the employment insurance) and platform workers can be eligible for the paid sick leave system. Those who work for 105 businesses in cooperative relationships with the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) can apply even if they do not reside in the six corresponding areas. Nevertheless, it excludes beneficiaries of unemployment benefits and childcare leave benefits according to the employment insurance, temporary disability compensation benefits as per the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act and livelihood benefits according to the national basic living security system. Public servants, faculty members, teachers and school workers are not eligible for this program as well.

No limits are placed on types of injury and disease due to which workers apply for sickness allowance. However, the program does not offer benefits to those who take days off due to plastic surgery for non-medical reasons or hospital visits following childbirths with no complications involved. Workers can have written diagnoses issued by 223 local medical organizations for 15,000 won before submission.

A list of such medical institutions is available on the website of the NHIS. The fee for the issuance of written diagnoses is reimbursed once workers are selected as beneficiaries. The health ministry plans to expand the paid sick leave system across the nation by 2025 based on an analysis of effects of this pilot program.

Keun-Hyung Yoo

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