Labor Law Standards (労働基準法) Article 39 requires employers to provide paid-time-off (PTO) (有給休暇) to their employees who have been employed, on a continual basis, for 6 months and have worked 80 percent or more of the required work days. This means that if you started with your employer on April 1, 2007, you will not have any PTO until 6 months later, October 1, 2007, provided that you worked 80 percent or more of your required work days. You really don’t have to worry much about satisfying the 80 percent threshold because a few sick days here and there won’t put you below that level.
The number of PTO days provided depends on how long you’ve been with the employer and also on your employer but the minimum given to you on your first year is 10 days. After another year of service, you’ll receive 11 days and then 12 days for another year of service. It then increases by 2 days for each additional year of service until it reaches 20 days (10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and then 20). After that, you get 20 PTO days per year. Of course, the Labor Standards Law sets only the minimum standards so employers are free to give more PTO days than required by law. Many employers do so through their employment handbooks (就業規則).
One of the many laws Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants practice is the Minimum Wage Law. The law is self explanatory: employers are legally required to pay their employees no less than the minimum wage in that prefecture.
According to the 2000 national census 2000 National Census, the top 8 prefectures where non-Japanese nationals live are, in descending order, Tokyo (212,975), Osaka (170,877), Aichi (110,298), Kanagawa (99,251), Hyogo (82,861), Saitama (62,411), Chiba (57,585), and Shizuoka (52,393). The minimum wages as of October 1, 2006 for these prefectures, published by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, are as follows:
Well it’s not a Million Dollar Baby but your baby’s worth 350,000 yen, or more, in Japan. No, you don’t have to put your baby on Yahoo! Auction or on eBay. All you need to do is fill out an “Application Form for Midwifery Expenses / Dependents’ Midwifery Expenses Maternity Allowance (出産育児一時金／家族出産育児一時金請求書)” (provided by your local Social Insurance Office or you can download it from the Social Insurance Agency’s website at http://www.sia.go.jp/topics/2006/n0925_2.pdf) and submit it to your local Social Insurance Office (社会保険事務所). You also need to attach a copy of your baby’s birth certificate.
You’re eligible to claim your benefit until 2 years past your baby’s birthday so don’t freak out if you didn’t know about the system or if you’ve simply forgotten. The amount used to be 300,000 yen, but to combat the aging society and encourage more young couples to have babies the government has increased the amount by 50,000 yen to 350,000 effective October 2006.
The form, if you look at it, can be intimidating. If you need assistance filling it out you can ask you HR department (for free but slow) or a Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant for assistance (社会保険労務士) (for fee but fast, and a continuing relationship will be very beneficial). It may take up to 2 months for the cash to be deposited into your bank account.
Yes. Labor Safety and Health Law (労働安全衛生法) Article 66 Paragraph 1 require employers to arrange health examinations, conducted by doctors, for their employees, and Paragraph 5 state that employees are required to undergo such health exams as arranged by their employers. Current legislation requires these health exams to be conducted once a year. A question may rise as to whom should bear the cost (employer or employee?) but the government’s current interpretation is that because the exams are required by law, it is only natural that employers bear the cost. While many companies in US are attempting to cut health insurance costs, companies in Japan provide health check-ups for free. This is actually one of the several benefits of working in Japan.
Because company provided health exams have become such an inseparable culture of Corporate Japan, it is unlikely that your employer doesn’t provide you one. But what can you do if your employer doesn’t? Ask someone you know at HR. Still if nothing happens ask again because chances are they’ve forgotten about it (low priority). If your employer is avoiding it to cut costs, first, your employer is in violation of law, and second, it may be time for you to jump ship because it’s pretty obvious your employer is in a budget crunch.
Oh, and if you’re paid by the hour, the government encourages employers to pay you for the time you spend on your health exam. If your work involves industrial hazards and/or bring you in contact with hazardous substances, it is likely that your employer is required to pay you for the time you spend getting examined.
So I’ve introduced who Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants are and that we specialize in practicing laws in the field of employment and social insurance. Laws that we’re licensed to practice are listed under Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant Law Article 2 Paragraph 1 (yes, our practice is governed by laws in addition to self regulations to ensure highest quality and standards) and include:
Labor Standards Law (労働基準法) Workers’ Accident Compensation Law (労働者災害補償保険法) Employment Insurance Law (雇用保険法) Occupational Skill Development Promotion Law (職業能力開発促進法) Minimum Wage Law (最低賃金法) Law on Collection of Labor Insurance Premiums (労働保険の保険料の徴収等に関する法律) Labor Safety and Health Law (労働安全衛生法) Law on Securing Payment of Wages (賃金の支払の確保等に関する法律) Law on Securing Proper Management of Businesses Lending Temporary Workers and Securing Proper Working Conditions for Temporary Workers (労働者派遣事業の適正な運営の確保及び派遣労働者の就業条件の整備等に関する法律) Law on Improving Management of Part-Time Workers’ Employment (短時間労働者の雇用管理の改善等に関する法律) Law on Welfare of Workers Caring for Children and/or Family Members including Child Care and Family Care Leave (育児休業、介護休業等育児又は家族介護を行う労働者の福祉に関する法律) Law on Equal Employment Opportunity and Conditions (雇用の分野における男女の均等な機会及び待遇の確保等に関する法律) Law on Promoting the Resolution of Individual Labor Disputes (個別労働関係紛争の解決の促進に関する法律) Health Insurance Law (健康保険法) Welfare and Pension Insurance Law (厚生年金保険法) National Health Insurance Law (国民健康保険法) National Pension Law (国民年金法)
The list isn’t exhaustive but these are laws that lay out the basic rights you have as employees and which your employers or potential employers must respect and be in compliance with. I’d like to brief on each of these laws over time so stay tuned to WJA.
The first thing you probably think of when you hear legal professional is lawyers. That’s correct, but not entirely. In Japan, many professionals other than lawyers are licensed by the government to practice laws in specialized areas. Shiho-shoshi lawyers (司法書士) (so they call themselves) specialize in real estate and company registration laws. Gyoseishoshi lawyers (行政書士) (another group of professionals without a corresponding translation for their profession) specialize in laws requiring businesses and individuals to obtain approvals, registration, and permits from various operations and statuses. Patent attorneys (弁理士) specialize in industrial properties (patent and copyright) laws. Tax accountants (税理士) specialize in tax laws. Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants (社会保険労務士) specialize in employment and social insurance laws.
Perhaps, a comparison with the medical profession might help you grasp this. Doctors that graduated from med schools are “the doctors” but there are chiropractors and pharmacists that are not “the doctors” in the sense that they didn’t graduate from med schools but are licensed to perform medical procedures. And who do you see when you have a back problem: a general doctor or a chiropractor? A doctor would run general tests and take more time and money to pin-point the problem and recommend you a cure. A chiropractor can recommend you a cure in less time and money because he/she is a specialist in this field and knows better than the general doctor. The legal profession in Japan works just the same way. You can consult an attorney to discuss your labor issues and rack up fees or you can consult a Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant for the same service but for less time and fee.
Another 2 weeks US 1 month Japan practice is submitting your resignation notice. As in the movie “Two Weeks Notice” starring Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, giving your boss a two weeks notice to leave the company is the common practice in U.S. In Japan, although the Civil Law (民法) only requires a two weeks notice, many companies have implemented a 30 days notice in their so-called employment book or rules of employment (就業規則). I won’t go into details about this employment book for now but basically, it lays down the rules and guidelines that apply to all employees of that company (so the two weeks notice in the Civil Law is overridden by employers' rules).
This 30 days notice stems from Labor Standards Law Article 20 which states that “In the event that an employer wishes to dismiss an employee, the employer shall provide at least 30 days advance notice (解雇予告).” Up until recently, life-time employment (終身雇用) was the practice in Japan. Our grandfathers and fathers (don’t mean to be sexist but it stood true back then) went to work for a company after graduating high school or college and stayed with the same company until retirement. The company was one big family and felt obligated to secure the employment of its employees. Firing was a rare practice. The 30 days notice reflects the spirit of Corporate Japan in the old days to protect the life of employees whose living so heavily depended on the salary from their employers. Two weeks notice was considered too short. And because companies are required to give at least a 30 days notice, they have implemented in their employment books that employees must also give companies a 30 days advance notice when quitting.
For those that are used to being paid on a biweekly basis Japan’s pay cycle may seem harsh. In Japan, you’re only paid once a month, usually on the 25th of each month (and if the 25th falls on a weekend or a holiday, then the nearest weekday before the 25th). This practice is wide spread due to Labor Standards Law Article 24 Paragraph 2 which states that “Wages must be paid at least once a month at a definite date”. This created the practice of paying employees on the 25th of each month, and not every other week. Of course, it’s perfectly ok and legal for companies to switch over to a biweekly basis (well, not exactly biweekly as in the U.S., but I’ve seen expatriates being paid on the 10th and the 25th of each month, or on the 15th and 30th), but in many cases, the benefits outweigh the costs so companies and businesses are reluctant to change this practice.
What this once-a-month-pay creates is the need to budget your monthly spending. If you were paid on a biweekly basis, you can pay your rent, go shopping in Aoyama or Omotesando, hang out with your friends at Roppongi, dine at nice restaurants in Ebisu, etc., etc. for the first week after your paycheck and cut back the following week till you get your next paycheck. But if you do that in Japan, you’d be in a tight financial position for the remaining three weeks. Maybe this is one factor why the savings rate in Japan is higher than in U.S. Many people in Japan have no choice but to save as much money as possible until their next paycheck and this builds a saving habit.
We’re all cost conscious. After all, who wants to pay more than they have to? Hell, not me. During the past two days I wrote about the two types of health insurance available to non-Japanese nationals in Japan so now you know that your co-pay is reduced to 30% of the total cost. But how much does it cost for this benefit?
Employee Health Insurance You are assigned something called a standard remuneration （標準報酬月額） based on your monthly salary bracket which is a range your monthly salary falls under. For each salary bracket, and its corresponding standard remuneration, there is a set premium amount that is deducted from your paycheck and for which the company contributes a matching amount. The attachment to this blog is the premium chart where you can find what your salary bracket is. For example, if you earn 360,000 yen a month, your salary bracket is 350,000 ～370,000, the corresponding standard remuneration is 360,000 yen, and the set Health Insurance premium is 14,760 yen per month. The example is highlighted in pink for presentation purposes.
Standard remuneration is initially assigned to you at the time you join the company and is reviewed each year in July. The review process is somewhat complicated but your standard remuneration can go up or down each year.
National Health Insurance Figuring out the premium for National Health Insurance is more complicated than figuring out the premium for Employees’ Health Insurance because each municipal government has their own way of assessing how much your premium is going to be. No kidding. Of the 3,000 or so municipalities in Japan, each of them have their own way of figuring out how much premium you should pay for your National Health Insurance. Of course, there are many similarities among neighboring municipalities, but still, it’s not uniform. In many cases thought, it tends to be higher than what you would pay under the Employees’ Health Insurance system. Please consult a Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant (you can email me from my website) or your local government office for more detail.
Yesterday I talked about one of the two ways to be covered by health insurance. Today I’d like to share with you the other way, and if you’re not a corporate employee or manage a business of your own, this is probably the only way you can enroll in health insurance. Also, if you’re currently unemployed and are not claimed as a dependant of someone with employee health insurance coverage or if you didn’t elect to have your employee health insurance coverage extended at the time of resignation from your previous company, this may be your only choice. This system is called National Health Insurance （国民健康保険）and you can enroll in this system through your municipal or local (used interchangeably) government office （市役所） that has jurisdiction over your residential area.
Your local government office usually has a designated section that deals with National Health Insurance and the receptionist should be able to direct you to the appropriate person to talk to. Although not wide spread yet, many local government offices are beginning to prepare English guidebooks for National Health Insurance system for non-Japanese residents in Japan. You may want to look into this if available.
Generally, the monthly premium you pay for this type of insurance is higher than the premium corporate employees pay for the type of insurance I introduced yesterday, but the reality is, the Japanese government doesn’t offer you a third choice (and this is the same for Japanese nationals in Japan too). But your out-of-pocket expense is reduced to 30% of the total cost so it’s better than being uninsured.
A coworker of mine recently went to a dentist in NYC to treat her cavity and it cost her close to $1,000 (folks in Japan, that’s almost equivalent to 118,130 yen in today’s foreign exchange rate!). No she didn’t get a gold filling and neither did she get her entire teeth replaced. This was outrageous for my coworker who is Japanese because you don’t pay that kind of money to dentists in Japan. In Japan, medical costs are lower than it is in U.S., and on top of that, your co-pay is generally 30% of the cost. The other 70% is paid by your insurer. That’s why we only pay a few hundred to maybe two thousand yen for a trip to a dentist in Japan. So how do you become covered by this insurance? There are two major ways but I’ll only cover one today and that’s by being employed.
Under Health Insurance Law Article 35, employees are automatically enrolled and covered by health insurance from the first day of work. You probably won’t have your health insurance registration card （健康保険被保険者証）on the first day of work because your company’s HR normally needs a week or two to complete paperwork in order for the Social Insurance Office （社会保険事務所） to issue a card for you. But even if you don’t physically have the card with you, you’re already covered and are entitled to all benefits offered.
What often happens (and I’ve dealt with this a lot) is that your child (or any dependant that you claimed on your health insurance) gets sick while your company’s HR is taking their sweet ass time getting your card issued. And without presenting the card to your doctor, you’ll be required to pay 100% of the cost. What do you do? Get your HR to issue you a temporary certificate （健康保険被保険者適用証明書） that proves that you’re an employee of the company and that you’re enrolled in its health insurance program. If your HR is competent enough (and assuming that they’re not swamped with work and that you’ve provided them with all the information they asked from you at the time of hiring), it shouldn’t take them more than 30 min to do this for you. Present this to your doctor and it should have the same effect as presenting them the health insurance registration card.
Corporate Japan is notoriously known for its crazy working hours. Sure if you’re an investment banker or a lawyer it’s somewhat socially expected that your hours can stretch to more than twelve hours a day (in case twelve hours doesn’t ring a bell to you, that’s working from 9 am till 9 pm and that’s still not that bad). But in Japan, this level of working hours is seen (and very much expected!) almost everywhere in almost every industry. No need to mention that the outcome of such crazy working hours is that you have no life on weekdays. “After 5 (or 6)” and “happy hour” are fairy tales in Japan. Common sense directs our attention to getting compensated for those extra hours. After all, time is money. But strangely (and illegally), that is not always the case in Corporate Japan.
Labor Standards Law Article 32 Paragraph 1 （労働基準法第３２条第１項） stipulates that excluding break time, “an employer shall not have an employee work for more than 40 hours per week” (The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, http://www.jil.go.jp/english/ ). Paragraph 2 （第２項） stipulates that excluding break time, “an employer shall not have an employee work for more than 8 hours per day for each day of the week” (The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, http://www.jil.go.jp/english/ ). And if your employer requires you to do overtime, Article 37 Paragraph 1 （第３７条第１項） stipulated that “In the event that an employer extends working hours or has an employee work on days off from work … the employer shall pay an increased wage for work during such hours or on such days at a rate … within the range of no less than 25 percent and no more than 50 percent over the normal wage per working hour or working day.”
Now you know your rights! But I wouldn’t advise demanding directly to your boss for extra pay even if you’re not being compensated. That’s just not the way Corporate Japan functions. Doing so will probably lead to you being disliked by your superiors and management. Probably, the best way is for you to report to the Labor Standards Inspection Office （労働基準監督署）. These are the guys that penalize companies for not being in compliance with the Labor Standards Law and enforce, even retroactively （遡及適用）, the application of it. And they will respect your anonymous status.
is your employer behaving at least to the law's minimum expectations?
Employment standards stipulated in the Labor Standards Law（労働基準法）is the minimum standard（最低基準）your employer is required to maintain. The Japanese government, namely the Labor Standards Inspection Office（労働基準監督署）, does not tolerate employers who do not maintain labor standards that at least meet those required by the Labor Standards Law.
And don’t be bullshitted by those that tell you that many sections of the law do not apply to non-Japanese nationals because they do. Minimum Wage Law（最低賃金法）, Industrial Safety and Health Law（労働安全衛生法）, Workers’ Accident Compensation Insurance Law（労働者災害補償保険法）, Health Insurance Law（健康保険法）, Welfare Pension Insurance Law（厚生年金保険法）, National Pension Law（国民年金法）, and many other laws related to employment apply to you just as they do to Japanese nationals.
Who are Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants and what do they do?
Who's never heard of a lawyer? Probably nobody. Who's never heard of an accountant? Again, probably nobody. But who's never heard of a Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant? Probably a whole bunch of people. Besides its long title ("Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant" compared with "lawyer", "accountant", and "doctor") who are they and what do they do? This being my first blog, and also being a Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant myself, I think its a good opportunity to let you know who we are and what we do.
Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants are self-regulated professionals licensed by the Japanese government (just like lawyers, doctors, and accountants) and roots back to the legislation of Social Insurance and Labor Consultant Law in June 1968. The legislation established the legal system for Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant to contribute to the improvement of compliance in the areas of employment and social insurance related laws and regulations, and to contribute to the improvement of welfare and health of employees. Although current legislation prevents Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants from representing clients in the court of law (sucks, doesn't it!?), in broad terms, we perform the following four functions (and our practice fields are growing rapidly because the social changes are in favor of granting more lawyer-like functions to us!). Anyway, here are the four major functions:
Represent clients in labor and social insurance related administrations and procedures Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants represent clients in various required administrations and procedures related to the hiring to terminating of employees as well as the formation to liquidation of corporations. Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants also represent clients in claiming pension payments and workers’ compensation benefits. In other words, we can do all the paper work for you!
Preparation and submission of employment related rules and books Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants prepare and/or submit to government offices rules of employment, payroll ledgers, retirement pay rules, Rule 36, and various other agreements and documents. In other words, we can draft and submit to the government for approval the dauntingly thick employment rules (which by the way is required by law to be written, and approved by a government agency, for employers with more than 10 employees!) and make recording entries to tedious employment related books such as payroll ledgers.
Represent clients in mediation of labor disputes Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants represent clients in mediation of labor disputes as governed by Resolution of Individual Labor Related Disputes Law. Although current legislation prevent Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants from representing clients in the court of law, Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants can represent clients in publicly held mediations which is now gaining popularity as an alternative dispute resolution method due to lower cost and less time commitment. In other words, although we can't represent clients in court, we can represent clients in other alternative dispute resolution stages. And the best part of this deal is that we're less costly compared to lawyers, and the resolution is reached faster than in court. This is one reason why there is strong opinions in favor of granting Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants with more litigation-like functions.
Consultation, guidance, and planning Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants provide consultations on designing and managing compensation packages, human resource systems, and retirement pay systems, to name a few. Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants also offer consultation on employment management such as hiring, to transferring to terminating of employees. Also offered are managing employee working hours, benefits and welfare, training and education, various pensions, issues related to elder employee, and various other issues related to employment and social insurance. In other words, we can help clients in anyway when it is human resource related!
Thank you for reading through this long introduction to who and what Social Insurance and Labor Consultants are. Please keep in mind as you browse through my future blogs that we are "the professionals" when it comes to employment and human resource related matters! And last but not the least, if you're ever in need of any services listed above and would like to have a Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant referred, just drop me an email through Kamii Holdings at http://www.kamii-holdings.com "Contact Us". We'd be glad to assist you!
Thinking about working in Japan? Preparing to move overseas almost becomes a full-time job in the final weeks of your departure. Many people quit their jobs weeks before so they can devote their time to preparation. But what about your health insurance? Short-term health insurance plans are a great solution. ↓
Below are links to Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultants providing services in English. Also below are useful links related to working in Japan and links to women balancing career and personal happiness. WJA realizes and promotes women's increasing value in the labor market.