Minimum Working Conditions
An employer who regularly employs 10 or more employees per workplace is required to prepare the work rules in accordance with the Labour Standards Act. The work rules must contain pertinent details relating directly and significantly to the working conditions. The employer’s work rules are to be submitted to the competent Labour Standards Inspection Office. An employment contract stipulating any working conditions that fail to meet the standards established by the work rules will be deemed invalid, and the conventional directives will supplant the nullified elements of the agreement. An employer may not change the work rules in any way that would disadvantage its employees, without obtaining the employees’ prior consent, unless such modifications to the work rules is considered reasonable.
The term ‘wages’ refers to any kind of payment made from an employer to its employees as remuneration for their work (e.g. wage, salary, allowance and bonus). Wages must be paid in full directly to the employee and in the appropriately designated currency. An employee’s wages, other than extraordinary wages and bonuses, are paid periodically (at least once a month on a specifically designated date).
In addition to the normal wage, work performed on statutory holidays and late-night work (between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.) requires an extra allowance; the statutory holiday allowance must be at least 35% of the normal hourly wage, while the late-night work allowance must be at least 25% of the normal hourly wage.
Maximum Working Week
Generally, the statutory working hours are 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. Statutory holidays must be granted once every week or four times every four weeks. Designated working hours may be further decided within the statutory working hours.
Flexible working hours arrangements are permissible, subject to certain requirements under the Labour Standards Act. The variable working hours system is possible by providing in the work rules or labour-management agreements, that the employer may have its employees work in excess of the statutory working hours, without paying overtime allowance, as long as the average working hours per week over a certain specific period does not exceed 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. In addition, the flexible working hours system is possible by providing in the work rules and labour-management agreements, that employees have the discretion to determine their start and finish times under certain conditions. The discretionary working system can be applied for expert employees who possess special skills, or employees in a certain position that involves engaging in planning, proposing, researching and analysing matters of business operations.
Compensation for overtime work of up to 60 hours per month, must be at least 25% of the normal hourly wage and overtime work that exceeds 60 hours per month, must be at least 50% of the normal hourly wage. Employees in managerial and supervisory positions as defined under the Labour Standards Act are exempt from the abovementioned overtime regulations; however, the late-night work allowance is still applicable.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide a Healthy and Safe Workplace
The Labour Contract Act has acknowledged in its written policy an employer’s obligation to take necessary care to ensure the physical and mental health and safety of its employees. The Industrial Safety and Health Act, in conjunction with the Labour Standards Act, mandates employers to secure the safety and health of employees in the workplace, as well as to facilitate the establishment of a comfortable working environment, by promoting comprehensive and systematic countermeasures concerning the prevention of industrial accidents, taking measures for the establishment of standards for hazard prevention, clarifying the safety and health management responsibility, and the promotion of voluntary activities with a view to averting industrial accidents.
One of the predominant obligations of employers under the Industrial Safety and Health Act concerns the establishment of an organisation for safety and health management. This includes appointment of a General Safety and Health Manager and designating such person with ultimate responsibility regarding such matters. In addition, employers are to appoint relevant officers to support the General Safety and Health Manager. These include the appointment of an industrial doctor, the establishment of a safety and health committee (if the employer employs 50 regular employees or more), and the appointment of an operation chief (if the employees engage in work which requires prevention-control of industrial accidents).
The Industrial Safety and Health Act further requires employers to establish measures for preventing dangers, risks and other impairments to the health of its employees, as well as promoting safety and health education and facilitating medical examinations for employees.
No specific administrative complaint procedures are provided for under Japanese law with regard to health and safety in the workplace. Nonetheless, the Labour Standards Inspection Offices accept complaints concerning health and safety in the workplace. However, in practice, they will not proceed to the enforcement stage unless they find an infringement of the Labour Standards Act and the Industrial Safety and Health Act.
Protection from Retaliation
Under Japanese law, an employer is required to protect the privacy of a consulter and harasser in cases involving harassment in the workplace. An employer is further prohibited from the dismissal or mistreatment of employees who make a consultation or cooperate with an investigation concerning harassment. A complaint against the employer concerning harassment, should generally be made under a breach of contract or as an action in tort based on the Civil Act (1896).
There is no specific law regulating whistleblowing systems in Japan.