Teacher Employment Contracts
Contracts in Korea are regarded much differently than in the West. It is fare to say that some teachers in Korea have faced some form of contract dispute with their Korean employer in one form or another. Generally speaking, most of the disputes are resolved in a timely manner that is acceptable to the employer and the western employee. However, there are times when the disputes are not resolved, with or without the help of the recruiting agency, and needs to be addressed within the Korean labor office or The Korean Department of Immigration. Such circumstances are rare but they are a reality.
There is no 100% guarantee that you will be free of contract problems once you are in Korea, and any recruiting agency or school who guarantees this is not being honest or realistic. The fact is, Korean schools and employers, regardless of how old and reputable the institution is, or how few contract disputes they have had in the past, or how financially secure they claim to be, can at any time adjust specific criteria within a teacher’s contract if the Korean employer wants to, needs to, or feels that it’s justified.
Contract Basics – Teacher contracts should include the following criterion
Employment Dates – An official start and end date should be clearly stated on the contract.
Salary – The salary should be written in the contract on a per month basis. Example: “ABC Language School will provide John Doe with 2.0 million won per month”. Most contracts also state which day the teacher will receive their salary.
Accommodations – The school needs to declare what they are going to provide you with, either a single accommodation (I bedroom or studio apartment) or shared accommodations (2 bedroom apartment or large studio apartment). Large studio apartments are provided for couples only. If a teacher requests a housing allowance then the amount should be clearly stated.
Working Schedule – This section should include daily and weekly working hours.
Severance Pay – The contract must state what the severance bonus will be upon completion of the contract. Most schools provide a severance “bonus” package equal to the teacher’s monthly salary. Example: “On completion of ones responsibilities of the full contract period, the severance pay is 2.0 Million Won, equivalent to the monthly salary. It will be granted only on the completion of the contract”.
Income Tax – Every contract should include a statement regarding tax deductions. Taxes in Korea should never exceed 7% of the teacher’s monthly salary. Contracts that state more than a 7% deduction each month should be questioned. Example: “Approximately 3.5% per month of the instructor’s salary shall be deducted by the employer as withholing tax, as provided by Korean Law”.
Airfare – Airfare should be included in the offer and highlighted in the contract. There are several options so make sure to have a full understanding of the arrangement before you sign off.
Medical Insurance – Korean law requires that schools cover 50% of the teachers medical insurance coverage, while the remaining 50% is covered by the teacher. Example: “The instructor will be covered by medical benefits under the Korean Medical Insurance Union, a Government Health Organization. The cost of this coverage will be borne half by the employer and half by the instructor. The Instructor’s share of this coverage will be deducted from their salary each month”.
National Pension Scheme – Although Korean schools are not technically obligated to provide teachers with the National Pension Scheme, many do offer this benefit. If the school has decided to offer its teachers the pension, then it is important to make sure the agreement is placed on the contract.
Overtime Pay – All contracts should state the hourly rate for teaching hours worked above and beyond the weekly or monthly maximum. 30 hours per week or 120 hours per month is the industry standard.
Additional elements found in teacher agreements – These stipulations will vary between schools
Preparation Time – Schools usually indicate how much preparation time they require from their teachers. “Prep” time includes lesson planning, making photocopies, organizing teaching materials, discussions with the Korean homeroom teachers, etc.
Sick Days – Some Schools state the number of sick days available to teachers. A sick day is considered to be a full paid day away from work. Often teachers will be required to say in advance that they will require a sick day, in addition to providing a doctor’s note when they return, in order to get paid for that day. Most school’s provide 2-3 sick days per year before they start deducting equated amounts from the teacher’s monthly salary to reflect the time away from work.
Termination Of Contract – Most schools will clearly stipulate what types of behavior are legitimate causes for contract termination. Such stipulations tend to include; showing up drunk or under the influence of drugs, swearing at children, breaking Korean law, not teaching the schools curriculum, etc.
Housing Deposit – This stipulation is becoming more common every year. Many schools now request a housing deposit from their teachers to cover against damages and outstanding bills. The deposit will be refunded in full provided all utility and phone bills are paid and there are no major damages to the accommodations provided. Often a school will need for you to provide the bank details of a bank account in your home country so that they can transfer the money directly to your account.
Dress Code – Some schools require their staff to dress more professionally than others. Schools that have strict dress codes usually include this information in the contract.
Duties & Responsibilities – Teacher duties and responsibilities that take place outside of the classroom are usually placed in the contract. Additional duties and responsibilities may include; attending teacher meetings, going to job related seminars, cleaning the teachers’ lounge once a week, supervising the children during specific break times throughout the day, etc.
What’s better, lengthy agreements with numerous pages or shorter contracts?
They both have their advantages and disadvantages. Longer contracts obviously contain more information and stipulations, therefore rules and responsibilities are more specific. The advantage to this scenario is that teachers know exactly what is required of them. The disadvantage is that when the school makes a request, there is a good possibility that their request is stated somewhere in the contract and will be required without question.
Shorter contracts, which contain less information and stipulations, are an advantage because additional duties that the school may request are unlikely to be in the contract, therefore matters are open for friendly discussion. The disadvantage is; your employer may automatically assume additional teaching related duties associated with the job are obvious with no room for debate, therefore placing these stipulations in the contract was not required.
Franchised schools and independent schools located in the Seoul Capital Region typically have more in-depth contracts.
Contract Disputes – In the unlikely event that a teacher has a major dispute that’s not resolved; Gone2Korea will address the situation directly with the employer. If we are unable to resolve the situation then a complaint will be filed with Korean Immigration, we will blacklist the school, we will make sure the teacher has access to the Korean Labor Office, and ultimately place the teacher at a new school if needed.
Common disputes between teachers and their Korean employers?
1. Requests for additional work and duties that were not stipulated in the contract
2. Overtime hours, overtime pay and/or vacation schedules
3. Prep time requirements
What constitutes a major contract dispute?
1. Salary related issues including withholding money
2. Working hours that exceed the hours that were mutually agreed upon
3. Lack of proper medical coverage