Accident Insurance, Bicycle Commutes, and You

Did you know that an accident during your bicycle commute to and from work or school is covered by ROSAI HOKEN?

Did you also know that some companies say that an accident during your bicycle commute to and from work or school is NOT covered by ROSAI HOKEN?


How can both of these statements be true? How can your commute be covered by ROSAI HOKEN but also not covered by ROSAI HOKEN? Is a company's internal ban on commuting by bicyle even legal?

First of all, let's take a look at what ROSAI HOKEN actually is:


 
ROSAI HOKEN

ROSAI HOKEN is the Worker's Accident Compensation Insurance system in Japan.

By law, ALL companies and academic institutions in Japan are REQUIRED to enrol in the ROSAI HOKEN insurance program.

Under this program, all full-time workers, part-time workers, and temporary workers of a company,  are covered by the insurance, regardless of their current residential status, visa status, or nationality.

ROSAI HOKEN covers injuries, illnesses, disability, and death, that occur at work OR while commuting to and from work.

In addition,deciding if an incident is covered by insurance is the responsibility of the LABOR STANDARDS INSPECTION OFFICE (RŌDŌKIJUNKANTOKUSHO) in your area - NOT by your place of work or study, and is the RIGHT of ALL workers in Japan.


 

COMMUTING BY BIKE

However, in October of 2013, Byron Kidd of the website "Tokyo By Bike" (www.tokyobybike.com) wrote an article about Japan's national "bike to work ban", and noted:


"Under Japanese corporate law, companies are required to insure their employees against workplace accidents, and this insurance extends to cover commuting to and from work. Despite this, few employee insurance policies include cycling insurance. As a result, employers in Japan implement company policies which prevent their employees from cycling to work to protect themselves from financial liability should an accident occur."

Commuting to work or school by bicycle is hardly a unusual phenomenon. In fact, some companies actively encourage it.

In July of 2013, The Japan Times reported that the Nagoya Municipal Government had been attempting to persuade its employees to cycle to work by offering them double the usual compensation for transportation expenses. As a result, "the number of municipal employees who commute by bicycle has more than doubled from 825 in 2000 to 2,056".

So, if commuting to work by bicycle is both (a) being encouraged to help the environment, and (b) covered by ROSAI HOKEN, why do some companies have an internal policy of "banning" this form of transportation and claiming that it is not, in fact, covered by their accident insurance policy?


 

ROSAI HOKEN AND THE LAW

ARTICLE 75 of CHAPTER VIII - ACCIDENT COMPENSATION of the LABOR STANDARDS ACT states:

"In the event that a worker suffers an injury or illness in the course of employment, the employer shall furnish necessary medical treatment at its expense or shall bear the expense for necessary medical treatment."

While a company MAY claim to prohibit commuting by bicycle, the reality is that ROSAI HOKEN is enshrined into the law, and supersedes any private ban that a company may claim as internal policy.

A company MAY forbid bicycles by claiming that there is "no room at the office" or "no parking spots outside the building" for bicycle storage, but they cannot completely prohibit an employee from commuting to work by bicycle without a very good reason.

More importantly, an internal restriction on commuting by bicycle does not free a company of its obligation to pay ROSAI HOKEN premiums if an employee chooses to ignore the policy and commute to work by bicycle anyway.

There is one caveat to this protection, however: if an employee was found to have had an accident outside of the bounds of what would be considered to be a reasonable route for commuting, then there is a good chance that the accident would not be covered by ROSAI HOKEN.

For example, if you left work one evening and decided to go and see a movie, and were unlucky enough to be hit by a car on your way home from the movie, ROSAI HOKEN would not cover you. Likewise, if you woke up one morning and decided to take a long and scenic route to work instead of your usual commuting route, ROSAI HOKEN would likely not protect you if you got into an accident.

The determining factor is how far off your normal route you were at the time of the accident.


 
WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT

So, what do you do if you happen to be involved in an accident while commuting to work by bicycle? What can you do if you had an accident, but your company claims that their policy means that you are not covered by their accident insurance?

First of all, it is not a company's right to dictate what is (or what is not) a work-related accident. Only the LABOR STANDARDS INSPECTION OFFICE may make such a decision.

In its "Foreign Workers' Handbook (English Edition)", the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's BUREAU OF INDUSTRIAL AND LABOR AFFAIRS advises:

"An employee’s accident application for compensation should be filed with the Labor Standards Inspection office in the area where the company is located. It should be submitted by the employee."

Therefore, if you are involved in an accident while commuting to work by bicycle, and you are concerned that your company will be unsympathetic, you should contact your local LABOR STANDARDS INSPECTION OFFICE first to avoid the possibility of your company using "power harassment" to try to avoid paying for your accident.

Naturally, the GENERAL UNION always stands ready to give support as needed, should you wish to seek further advice on an individual matter.


 

FINAL POINTS

In conclusion, here's what we have learned about bans on bicycle commutes and how they affect your right to ROSAI HOKEN:

  • ROSAI HOKEN is the law.
  • Internal company policy does not supplant the ROSAI HOKEN law.
  • ROSAI HOKEN cases are decided by the LABOR STANDARDS INSPECTION OFFICE.
  • All companies in Japan are required to enroll in the ROSAI HOKEN program.
  • A company cannot prohibit bicycle commutes.
  • A company can prohibit bicycle parking at their building.
  • A company cannot prohibit you from leaving your bike in a public parking space.
  • A company cannot punish you for ignoring their ban on bicycle commutes.
  • ROSAI HOKEN does not cover you beyond your normal commuting route.
  • A company ban on bicycle commuting does not invalidate your commuting route.

 

CAVEAT - if you choose to commute by bicycle be careful of claiming train fares. Many people do it people do get into trouble for this and as much as it is a small thing in  away, some companies classify it as fraud.

 



SOURCES:
"Japan's National Bike to Work Ban". Kidd, Byron. Tokyo By Bike. October, 2013.
"Nagoya Commuters Get Their Cycle On". Chunichi Shimbun via Japan Times. July, 2013.
"Foreign Workers' Handbook". Tokyo Metropolitan Government. March, 2011.



Does your company have a ban on commuting via bicycle? Have they claimed that bicycles commutes are not covered by ROSAI HOKEN? Do you have another concern about ROSAI HOKEN that doesn't involve commuting? Let us know at:

union(at)generalunion.org


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