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Banks adopt extended unpaid leave for parents to spend more time with children

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KB Financial Group Chairman and CEO Yang Jong-hee spends time with children during his visit to a day care center run by the group's flagship affiliate, KB Kookmin Bank, in Yeouido, Seoul, May 7. Yonhap

KB Financial Group Chairman and CEO Yang Jong-hee spends time with children during his visit to a day care center run by the group's flagship affiliate, KB Kookmin Bank, in Yeouido, Seoul, May 7. Yonhap

By Yi Whan-woo

Commercial banks are increasingly allowing their employees to spend more time with their children and to take longer breaks even after taking parental leave. The employees can then spend more quality time with their families and return to work at a later date.

The extended unpaid leave initiative was first adopted by KB Kookmin Bank in January and will also take effect at Woori Bank starting at the end of this month, according to the two companies and industry sources, Friday.

The system resembles the two-year parental leave, as parents can take off up to three years.

Another resemblance to parental leave comes from the fact that the employee can return to work at the same rank and position they had before they left, to ensure they do not suffer a career setback caused by the lengthy breaks.

The system, however, is different from parental leave as no wages are paid during these breaks.

"Those who want to spend time with their children can secure up to five years in total under the conditional extended unpaid leave initiative," a KB Kookmin Bank public relations employee said.

Anyone who has worked at the bank for more than three years and has children aged seven or younger is entitled to apply for conditional extended unpaid leave.

A total of 45 employees are already benefiting from the system since its adoption, according to the staffer.

"We hope our extended unpaid leave initiative helps to bolster Korea's low birthrate," he added.

A Woori Bank public relations employee expressed hope that the firm's conditional extended unpaid leave will "help parents to better focus on child care and also feel secure about retaining their jobs."

An industry source speculated that the system may spread to other major commercial banks as well as other business sectors.

"Many salaried workers, who are in their 20s and 30s, regardless of industry, are from dual-income families with little children and will find the system very helpful," the source said.

Another source speculated a mix of parental leave and the conditional extended unpaid leave system will especially benefit women, saying "Women struggle to cope with both the housework and their careers despite improvements in women's empowerment over the years."

Yi Whan-woo yistory@koreatimes.co.kr


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