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The Foreign Workers' Handbook

Law and Rights Index


  1. General Law
  2. Labor Contracts
  3. Retirement
  4. Wages
  5. Working Hours
  6. Dismissal
  7. Labor Union
  8. Industrial Injury
  9. Health Insurance
  10. The Immigration Control Act
  11. Tax

1. General Law

I work for a Japanese company in Japan.
Although I have a fair knowledge of America's labor laws, I'm not familiar with Japan's.
Do the labor laws here cover foreigners, regardless of nationality?

As a rule, Japanese laws cover foreigners who work for Japanese companies in Japan, regardless of their nationality.
The Constitution states that there shall be no discrimination because of race.
The labor Standards Law also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with regard to wages, working hours or other working conditions, regardless of race, color, creed, social status or family origin.
All foreign workers in Japan are protected by the following labor laws; the Labor Standards Law (Rodo Kijun-ho), the Minimum Wages Law(Saitei Chingin-ho), the Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance Law(Rodosha Saigai Hosho Hoken-ho), and the Equal Opportunity Law(Danjo koyo Kikai Kinto-ho).
Even illegal (non-documented) foreign workers are covered by Japanese labor laws; the Labor Ministry announced in 1989 that "Japanese labor laws protect all people working in Japan, regardless of their nationality or visa status."

Labor Standards Laws (Equal Treatment)
Article 3. An employer shall not engage in discriminatory treatment with respect to wages, working hours or other working conditions by reason of the nationality, creed or social status of any worker.

NOTE: All articles hereinafter are extracted from the Labor Standards Law unless stated otherwise.

For the purpose of working in Japan, I signed a contract with a Japanese company in England.
Which law covers my contract, English or Japanese?

You can choose which law your contract will be based on.
If neither you nor your employer designated which law applied, the contract is subject to the laws of the nation where the contract was signed.
If the contract refers to the nation to which the contract belongs, there is no problem. Even if it is not written in the contract, it is enough when parties to the contract agree that there was a consensus on the matter.
It could be a problem if you and your employer made a contract without designating which nation's law governs the contract, and now disagree on this point.
I assume your contract stipulates that you will work in Japan. In such cases, it is often considered that you have agreed to work under Japanese laws unless there was an exceptional accord that it should fall under English laws

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2. Labor Contracts

I don't understand what the Japanese think about contracts.
My employer doesn't want to conclude a labor contract with me.
What should I do?

Many Japanese employers are not accustomed to the idea of contracts, and they think that concluding a formal contract is being somewhat "mizukusai (stand-offish)".
They prefer verbal agreements relying on the consensus that has built up in the company over the years.
Employers here tend to think that a written form of contract is unnecessary among people who trust each other, such as among family members.
That is why some employers are unwilling to clarify things in a contract or are upset when foreigners insist on a contract.
However, a contract is essential when the parties are of different cultures. In order to prevent future problems, it is important that everything you discuss with your employer should be included in your contract.
The labor Standards Law stipulates in Article 15 that an employer shall clarify the wages, working hours and other working conditions for employees when making out a labor contract.
The Labor Ministry has given guidance that an employer shall provide a notice of employment to a foreign employee, to avoid problems over working conditions after employment.

I'm from Canada. I've been working for a Japanese company for more than a year.
I find that the working conditions here are different from those stated in the contract, and I want to change my job.
My contract specifies, however, that I should work for the company for at least three years.
Is it possible for me to quit?

To protect employees from having to work against their will, the Labor Standards Law (Rodo Kijun-ho) prohibits contracts of over one year, except those which require a definite period for the completion of a specific project, such as the construction of a building.
Even if a contract-other than those of specified length-stipulates a required work period of over one year, it is valid for only one year.
Thus, if you have a standard contract, you can quit any time, as you have been working for over a year.
If you want to avoid to be in trouble with your employer, you should confirm the rules of employment (Shugyo Kisoku) of your company. And according to the regulation, you offer the employer your will to retire.
When there are no rules of employment in your company, you only need to give your employer two weeks' notice of your intention to quit.
You said your working conditions violate your contract.
If this is true, you can leave the company immediately without giving notice.
This is a right guaranteed by the Labor Standards Law.

(Period of Contract)
Article 14. Labor contracts, excluding those without a definite period, and excepting those providing that the period shall be the period necessary for completion of a specified project, shall not be concluded for a period longer than one year.

(Request for Cancellation)
Civil Law Article 627. (1)When the parties have concluded a contract without a specified period of employment, either party is entitled to request that the other party cancel the contract at any time. In this case, employment will be terminated two weeks after either party has requested cancellation of the contract by the other party.

I am working at an English language school on a one-year contract.
Asked by my friend to work at another language school, I am thinking of changing my job.
My contract says, however, that I must pay a penalty amounting to twice my monthly salary if I quit during the contract period.
Must I really pay it?

In order to protect employees from being forced to work, the Labor Standard Law (Rodo Kijun-ho) states, "An employer shall not make a contract which fixes in advance either a sum payable to the employer for breach of contract or the amount of indemnity for damages."
Therefore, the penalty stared in your contract is invalid.
However, if your employer incurs damages due to your departure, he/she can claim for the damages. In such a case, your employer is required to prove that damages were indeed incurred and were caused by your resignation.
In your case, your reason to quit your job does not seem to be unavoidable and, therefore, you are responsible for breaking the contract.
The Labor Standard Law allows employers to cut wages as a sanction against employees who, for example, break their contract, do not show up for work without prior notice, or often come to the office late.
The Labor Standard Law also stipulates that if an employer cuts your pay, the reduction must be less than half your daily wage and the total amount of the pay-cut cannot exceed 10 percent of the total wages for a single pay period.
We understand that sanctions such as wage reduction can be stipulated in the rules of employment of the company, and therefore, you need not lose any money unless these rules mention sanctions.

(Ban on Predetermined Indemnity)
Article 16. An employer shall not make a contract which fixes in advanced either a sum payable to the employer for breach of contract or the amount of indemnity for damages.

(Restrictions on Sanction Provisions)
Article 91. In the event the rules of employment provide for a decrease in wages as a sanction against an employee, the amount of decrease for a single occasion shall not exceed one-half of the daily average wage, and the total amount of decrease shall not exceed 10 percent of the total wages for a single pay period.

My school does not provide as many teaching hours as promised in the contract, and I would like to take a part time job during my free time.
But my contract prohibits me from doing so.
What should I do?

Prohibition of part-time work is a common feature of employment contracts.
The purpose of such rules is to protect the health of workers who might otherwise continue to engage in strenuous work without taking necessary time off to rest.
The employer's obvious concern is that the part-time job might interfere with the main job.
Other reasons for such restrictions include keeping a company's business confidential and maintaining discipline.
Despite these reasons, however, regulations on how an employee uses his/her free time should be kept to a minimum.
In the case of an employee who, without the permission of his/her employer, bought a truck and started making deliveries of earth and sand for another company, arbitration upheld the disciplinary dismissal of the employee.
In another case, an employee worked two or three hours a day for about ten days.
This minimum level of work neither disturbed the company disciplinary dismissal was not considered appropriate.
In many cases involving contracts for language instructors, it has been observed that a fixed number of teaching hours are guaranteed after establishing a salary. By making this type of contract, the employer guarantees working hours and minimum wages.
An employer's failure to provide fixed working hours as stated in the contract is considered the same as intentional negligence or breach of faith in terms of the contract.
In such a case, an employee can claim for the full payment of wages for the fixed working hours stated in the contract (Paragraph 2, Article 536, Civil Law).
If you have difficulty making a claim against an employer, you should be paid 60 percent of your average wages (Article 26, Labor Standards Law).
But the other problem remains; If a language instructor receives neither the guaranteed working hours nor enough wages to live on, he/she needs to find additional work.
Does this go against the terms of the contract?
As explained above, with respect to an employee's private time, an employer should allow him/her to continue a part-time job with consideration of the minimum working hours.
If the employer cannot provide fixed working hours as written in the contract, he/she cannot expect to have the right to impose any penalty on the employee.

(Allowance for Business Suspension)
Article 26. In the event of suspension of business for reasons attributable to the employer, the employer shall pay an allowance equal to at least 60 percent of the average wage to each employee during the period of business suspension.

My employer often says it is in the rules of employment (Shugyo Kisoku) when ever I ask about my working conditions.
The small booklet of employment rules is distributed to every employee, but I cannot read it because it is in Japanese.
Can I ask my employer to translate it into English?

Companies with 10 or more employees are required to draw up rules of employment and to submit them to the Labor Standards Inspection Office.
The rules of employment must clearly state working hours, day-off, leave, wages and matters concerning retirement.
For retirement allowances, eligibility and the methods of calculation and payment should also be stipulated.
If there are bonuses, accident compensation or health and safety schemes for employees, employers must make these clear in the rules of employment.
The Labor Standard Law (Rodo Kijun-ho) requires employers to post the rules of employment in a prominent place and make them understandable to the employees.
You may request, and your employer is expected to provide, an English version of the rules of employment.

(Responsibility for Drawing Up and Submitting)
Article 89. An employer who employs ten or more workers shall draw up rules of employment on the following items and shall submit those rules of employment to the administrative office. If the employer alters the following items, the same shall apply;
1. matters pertaining to the time work begins and ends, rest periods, rest days and leave, and matters pertaining to a change of shifts;
2. matters pertaining to the methods for determination, computation and payment of wages (excluding extraordinary wages and the like; hereinafter in this item the same qualification shall apply); the dates for closing accounts for wages and for payment of wages; and increases in wages;
3. matters pertaining to retirement;
3-2. if there are stipulations for retirement allowances, matters pertaining to the range of employees covered; methods for determination, computation and payment of retirement allowances and the dates for payment of retirement allowances;
4. if there are stipulation for extraordinary wages and the like (but excluding retirement allowances) and/or minimum wage amounts, matters pertaining to such items;
5. if there are stipulations for having employees bear the cost of food, supplies for work or other such expenses, matters pertaining to such items.
6-10. (omitted)

(Dissemination of Laws and Regulations)
Article 106. The employer shall make known to the employees the gist of this law, and ordinances issued under this law and the rules of employment, by displaying or posting them at all times in a conspicuous location or locations in the workplace, or by other methods.

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3. Retirement

I'm teaching English under a one-year contract.
The contract states that I must give my employer three months' notice before quitting.
Is there a law on this in Japan?

The Labor Standard Law (Rodo Kijun-ho) does not specify any notification period. The Civil Law (Mim-po), however, stipulates that you must give your employer two week's notice of your intention to resign if your contract has been fixed without a specified period (Article 627, Civil Law).
Since your contract specifies the term of service, you are subject to the contract unless there are special "unavoidable reasons" (Article 628, Civil Law).
You might encounter legal problems if you quit without giving your employer three months' advance notice.
Violation of the contract by your employer or circumstances that have arisen which are beyond your control are sufficient justification for you to cancel the contract.
If you fail to give three months' advance notice and quit without good reason, your employer may claim damages from you for breach of contract.
Contract negotiations should include the notification period, which employers tend to make long because of the cost of recruiting foreigners and the difficulty of filling vacancies.
However, the notification period should not be longer than is necessary, as this puts constrains on the employee.
You should discuss the notification period with your employer before signing the contract.

(Request for Cancellation)
Civil Law Article 627.
(1) When the parties have concluded a contract without a specified period of employment, either party is entitled to request that the other party cancel the contract at any time.
In this case, employment will be terminated two weeks after either party has requested cancellation of the contract by the other party.
(2) When the contract specifies the period of employment and wages, either party is entitled to request that the other party cancel the contract for the second and later terms, provided, however, that such a request is made in the former half of the current term.
(3) When the contract specifies a period of employment of six months or more and wages, the party wishing to cancel the contract shall request the other party to do so three months in advance.

(Cancellation of a Contract for some Unavoidable Reason)
Civil Law Article 628.
Even if the parties have concluded a contract with a specified period of employment, either party is entitled to cancel the contract in unavoidable circumstances.
However, if these circumstances are the fault of the canceling party only, he/she shall be liable for damages suffered by the other party.

As a result of a dispute with my employer over working condition, I decided to leave the company.
I then asked the employer to pay the necessary travel expenses for me to return home, according to the terms of the contract.
But the employer told me that he could not pay those expenses before the contract expired.
The contract states that the employer shall bear the necessary travel expenses for the employee.
How should this be understood?

For a foreign employee, travel necessary to return home is very expensive.
The basic principle is the same as for Japanese employees, who are expected to be transferred to other branches inside Japan.
Under the Law, there is no rational reason for foreigners to be discriminated against.
All employee should be treated equally.
According to Article 15 paragraph(2) in the Labor Standards Law, "If the working condition as clearly stated under the provisions of the paragraph(1) differ from actual fact, the employee may immediately cancel the labor contract".
Paragraph (3) states, "In a case under paragraph(2), if an employee who has changed his/her residence for work returns home within 14 days from the date of cancellation, the employer shall bear the necessary travel expenses for the employee."
The above can apply to all foreign employees.
Regarding your question involving a dispute over working conditions, if the actual conditions differ from those stated in the contract, the law cited above will apply if you return home within 14 days.
Usually, such a case, the employee can claim the necessary travel expenses based on the Labor Standards Law.
In a case where Article 15 does not apply in a dispute over working conditions, there will be a question of interpretation as to whether the employer is responsible for travel expenses.
If the part of the contract's paragraph stating that "the employer shall bear the necessary travel expenses when the employee returns home" clearly specifies the circumstances under which the employee is returning home, there will be no misunderstanding between the two parties.
If the contract stipulates, however, that travel expenses are covered under any conditions, then the employer must pay those expenses to the employee even before the expiration of the contract.
When the employer wishes to bear the travel expenses at the end of the contract, the contract should be clearly written to that effect.
In any case, once the employer promises in the contract to pay travel expenses, he/she cannot refuse to pay.
That way, the employee can claim travel expenses for returning home only according to the terms of the contract.

(Clear Statement of Working Conditions)
Article 15. (1) In concluding a labor contract, the employer shall clearly state the wages, working hours and other working conditions to the employee. Matters concerning wages shall be clearly stated in the manner prescribed by ordinance.
(2) If the working conditions as clearly stated under the provisions of the preceding paragraph differ from actual fact, the employee may immediately cancel the Labor contract.
(3) In a case under the preceding paragraph, if an employee who has changed his/her residence for work returns home within 14 days from the date of cancellation, the employer shall bear the necessary travel expenses for the employee.

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4. Wages

My employer cut my wages. When I was paid only half of the wages outlined on the contract, I asked for an explanation.
He remarked only that my work was unsatisfactory.
He said I made a lot of mistakes and was often late.
Is it legal for an employer to cut wages for such reasons?

Basically it is illegal for an employer not to pay an employee the wages specified on the contract.
Also, an employer is not allowed, according to the Labor Standards Law, to make a contract forcing an employee in advance to account for a loss incurred on the job.
Accordingly, if an employer has a claim for damages (limited to damages caused intentionally and/or by malpractice), he/she must consider it separately from wages.
For absence or lateness, wages may be reduced according to the rule of employment.
Another case in which a reduction of wages is sanctioned is after several occurrences of an employee being late. This would be stipulated in the contract. In this case as stated in Q5, the amount of wage reduction should not be more than half the daily wage for a single violation, or more than one tenth of the monthly wages for all violations.

I came to Japan on a tourist visa.
On pay day, my employer did not pay me even half of the wages called for in my contract.
Can an illegal foreign employee like me request payment of unpaid wages?

"A non-documented (illegal) worker" is not condoned but even so, you have the right to receive your full wages as per the agreement with your employer.
The Labor Standards Law stipulates in Article 24 that the employer must pay you your full salary or wages in cash on a specified date at least once a month.
Actually, however, it is true that illegal foreign employees hardly ever claim by due process the right to be paid wages, for fear they may be deported because they overstayed their visa.
In fact, there are some abusive employers who exploit this.
To prevent this illegal exploitation, the Labor Ministry has issued a circular saying that the Ministry will uphold the rights of illegal employees under the Labor Standards Law, without reporting such employees to ask the related administrative organizations for assistance so ask to be paid the full amount of wages by the employer.
Recently there have been increased advisory services in foreign languages for foreign employees provided by various organizations.
Also the services provided by the Labor Standards Inspection offices and Labor Administrations offices in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government are helpful on this kind of problem.
If the amount of unpaid salary or wages is small, it would be better if you use an advisory service provided by administrative organizations.
If the amount owing is large and you also have other problems, you can consult a lawyer or a labor union which you join as an individual, especially in cases where there appears to be a big problem between you and your employer which accordingly needs a lot of time to reach an agreement.

I hear that it is illegal for an employer to employ someone for wages less than the amount fixed by the minimum wages fixing system in Japan.
What is the minimum wages system? Dose it apply to foreign employees?

Under the minimum wages fixing system the government sets the minimum wages.
An employer is obliged to pay wages more than the amount set by the Minimum Wages Law.
The Minimum Wages Law apples to all employees and all employers who employ one or more employees, regardless of employment status, sex or nationality.
Accordingly, all foreign employees, including non-documented (illegal) workers, are covered by the law.
There are some cases, however, in which an employer may exclude the employees listed below, with the permission of the Chief of the Labor Standards Bureau;

employees who have an extremely small capacity for work due to a mental or physical disability,

employees on a probationary period,

employees who are receiving vocational training under the Human Resources Development Promotion Law,

a. employees whose prescribed working hours are particularly short,
b. employees engaged in simple work,
c. employees engaged intermittently.

The minimum wages amount is fixed according to the normal working hours or working days, and concretely as a basic salary excluding bonuses and additional allowance for overtime, night shifts, duty on rest days, non-absence service, commuting and family.
There are two types of minimum wage; regional minimum wages applicable to all employers and employees; industrial minimum wages applicable only to employers and employees in particular industries.
There are fixed according to the region and type of industry and are revised yearly.

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5. Working Hours

According to my contract, my daily working hours end at 5 p.m.
However, at 5 o'clock hardly any of the Japanese workers leave their desks.
What does the relevant Japanese law say about working hours and overtime?

The Labor Standards Law stipulate that an employer shall not force employees to work more than 8 hours a day, excluding rest period, or 40 hours a week (Article 32).
An exception to this is that certain industries, depending on their size or type, are allowed to keep 44 working hours while in the transition period of changing to a 40-hour working week.
Moreover, the pattern of working hours in Japan has been getting more complicated since the introduction of flexible working hours.
Under the system, the pattern of working hours can be set flexibly depending on how the working is going.
An employer is allowed to extend working hours longer than stipulated in Article 32 if he/she concludes a written agreement with a trade union or representative of majority of employees.

The law stipulates:

If an employee works more than 8 hours per days, or 40 hours per week, he/she shall paid 125 percent or more of the hourly wage for each hour of overtime.

If an employee works between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.,the hourly wage shall be 125 percent or more of the daytime hourly wage.

If an employee works overtime and continues to work after 10 p.m., he/she is entitled to 150 percent or more of the daytime hourly wage for each hour he/she works after 10p.m.

If an employee works on rest days, the hourly wage shall be 135 percent or more of the normal hourly wage.

It is common knowledge that "karo-shi (death from overwork)" has been the object of public concern, and yet, a reduction in the current legally-set working hours has not been wide-spread.
One of the reasons for this may be that employees think that if they leave the the office right after 5 o'clock it will have negative consequence on their job performance evaluations.

(Working Hours)
Article 32.
(1) An employer shall not employ an employee more than 40 hours a week, excluding rest periods.
(2) An employer shall not employ an employ an employee more than 8 hours a day, excluding rest period, for each day of the week.

What does the relevant law say about vacation policies in Japan?

The Labor Standard Law stipulates that annual paid holidays are granted to employees at any time of their own choice to ensure a healthy and agreeable life.
Paid holidays are granted to employees who have worked for 6 consecutive months and had at least 80 percent attendance. In such cases, an employer, who employs one or more employees, should grant employees an annual holiday of 10 consecutive working days or the same divided into parts.
When an employee takes a paid holiday, he/she should be automatically paid a sum equivalent to his/her average or regular wages for the period of the holidays as stipulated by the Labor Standards Law.
An employee is free to use 10 days paid holiday consecutively or divided into parts.
The number of days holiday increases by one each year up to 20, if an employee remains working in the same company.
Unused days of paid holiday can be added to the following year's holiday (within two years).
An employee can take days of holiday whenever he/she wants. A company, however, is allowed to change an employee's vacation to another time, if the vacation would interfere with the company's normal operation.
When employees work less than 4 days per week or work on unit periods of other than a week and the number of days worked is between 48 and 216, paid holiday is calculated and granted to employees pro rata and subject to the conditions in the ordinance.
However, employees work more than 35 hours per week are excluded. If such employees work for 6 consecutive months, an employer should grant them 10 days paid holiday.

(Annual Paid holidays)
Article 39.
(1) An employer shall grant an annual paid holiday of 10 consecutive working days or the same divided into parts to employees who have been employed for 6 consecutive months and who had at least 80 percent attendance.
(2) An employer shall increase the annual paid holiday by one day per year for each year of continuous service after the initial 6 months (see the chart below). However, if the amount of annual paid holiday accrued exceeds 20 days, the employer is not required to grant or pay for any days over 20.
(3) (omitted)
(4) An employer shall grant paid holidays as stipulated in the three preceding paragraphs during the period required by the employee. However, if this prevents the normal operation of the enterprise, the employer is authorized to change the holiday dates.
(5),(6),(7) (omitted)

Number of days of paid holiday

in case of full-time job
Numbers of years of continuous service
0.5 1.5 2.5 3.5 4.5 5.5 6.5or more
10 11 12 14 16 18 20

in case of part-time job
designated working day Numbers of years of continuous service
0.5 1.5 2.5 3.5 4.5 5.5 6.5 or more
in a week: 4 days
in a year: 169-216 days
7 8 9 10 12 13 15
in a week: 3 days
in a year: 121-168days
5 6 6 8 9 10 11
in a week: 2 days
in a year: 73-120days
3 4 4 5 6 6 7
in a week: 1 day
in a year: 48-72days
1 2 2 2 3 3 3

I am working for a Japanese company. I hear that every working woman has the right to take days off before and after childbirth, thereafter for infant-care in Japan.
Dose this apply to a foreign employee under a one-year employment contract?
How about male employees?

The Labor Standards Law stipulates in Article 65 that if a woman who is expected to give birth requests maternity leave, the employer shall give her 6 weeks (or 14 weeks in the case of twins or more) off before childbirth.
The employer is not allowed to employ a woman within 8 weeks after childbirth; if, however, a woman requests so to return to work 6 weeks after childbirth, the employer may allow her to resume her duties if a doctor confirms that they will not adversely affect her.
This applies to foreign employees as well.
Regardless of nationality, every employee has the right to take childcare leave.
However, Article 2 in the Childcare Leave Law restricts workers' eligibility; employees who are employed on a daily basis and employees who are employed for a fixed period are excluded.
This means that employees who are employed for a fixed period of less than one year are not entitled to take childcare leave.
If an employee has concluded a contract of unspecified length, with one month's advance notice, she is entitled to take childcare time any day during the period from the approved date to the day before the infant's first birthday.
If an employee has been employed consecutively for more than one year by several renewals and is regarded as an employee under continuous employment, she may have the right to take childcare leave.
A female employee has the right to take 8 weeks of maternity leave, and if she wishes, she can take childcare leave after 8 weeks of maternity leave.
A male employee cannot take maternity leave, but in some circumstances he can take childcare leave immediately after child is born while his wife is on maternity leave.
If a female employee works while raising an infant under the age of one full year, she may take at least 30 minutes childcare time, twice a day according to Article 67 of the Labor Standards Law.
there are a lot of employees who use this time before and after work in order to take their infant to a day-care center or similar.
there are no rules on wages during absence from work on maternity leave, and therefore, each company needs to stipulate in the rules of employment or similar whether it is paid during absence.
In the case of unpaid maternity leave, if an employee has been insured for a period of one year or more, and so request, during absence, the employee can receive 30% of the total wages for the pay period immediately before absence on maternity leave.
When an employee returns to work and so requests, she can get a lump sum payment of 10% of the total wages for the period of absence.
This can not be claimed until after the employee has been payment of Social Insurance only if she applies before taking maternity leave.

(Before and After Childbirth)
Article 65.
(1)If a woman who is expected to give birth within 6 weeks (or within 14 weeks in the case of twins or greater) requests maternity leave, the employer must give her time off.
(2) An employer shall not employ a woman within 8 weeks after childbirth; however, this shall not prevent an employer from employing a woman who has so requested after 6 weeks have passed since childbirth, in duties which a doctor has recognized would not adversely affect her.
(3) If a pregnant woman so requests, an employer shall transfer her light duties.

(Time for Childcare)
Article 67.
(1) A woman raising an infant under the age of one full year may request childcare time of at least 30 minutes, twice a day, in addition to the rest periods under Article 34.
(2) An employer must not make a woman work, while she is on the childcare time stated in the preceding paragraph.

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6. Dismissal

My employer fired me, saying that I was not a hard worker.
I've heard that an employer can't dismiss someone without a valid reason.
What are valid reasons?

As you say, employers can't dismiss workers without a valid reason, but it is difficult to draw a line between what is valid and what is not, as there aren't any laws which stipulate criteria for dismissal.
However, past court cases may give you a rough idea.
The court ruled that dismissal was fair in the following cases:

When an employee;

hit his boss

neglected his duty due to frequent lateness

joined a company that requires its employees to have a certain educational background by lying about his personal history

undermined his employer's trust in him because of a constant uncooperative attitude

On the other hand, the court ruled that dismissal was unfair and invalid in the following cases;

When an employee,

refused to follow his employer's instructions because they were not written in the contract

(a female) got married

went for job interviews at other companies

had a poor attitude towards customers, but neither neglected his duties nor made any big mistakes

Judging from those cases, your dismissal was unfair and invalid, unless, of course, your employer can point to facts that clearly show you were a lazy worker.

I was fired over a dispute about working conditions.
Although I have not agreed with being dismissed this way, my employer also told me to move out of the apartment provided by the company, as required by the contract.
Do I have to leave the apartment now?
If so, I will have to find another place. What should I do?

When an apartment is contracted by a company, the civil laws are applied differently depending on whether it is provided free or is leased.
Normally, the former cases is covered by the provisions in Article 593 of Civil Law, and the latter by Article 601 of the Civil Law. However, if the rent is extremely low, there will be some question as to whether the latter case applies.
If you have a rent-free apartment, you are required under the terms of worker-as-tenant to give up the apartment on the day specified in the contract (Article 597,Civil Law).
The employer has demanded that you move out of the apartment at the time of your dismissal. If you do not comply with that demand, your employer could possibly take to matter to court.
On the other hand, a lease contract with a company is governed by Article 28 of the Land and Building Act.
According to the act, in order to end a lease relationship, an employer as a landlord is required to give notice to an employee, with a justifiable reason.
When the lease has a specified period, the landlord should give advance notice of 6 months to one year and should clearly tell the employee that he/she does not intend to renew the lease contract.
Also, with a lease that has no specified duration, advance notice to vacate the property of at least 6 months is required.
Therefore, even if it is stated in a contract that the employee shall move out immediately upon dismissal, such requirement is totally contrary to the Land and Building Act (Article 30, Land and Building Act, or Article 6, former Land and Building Act).
The landlord can never make a tenant leave by force.
In the case of a company house, the argument often turns on whether it is provided free or is leased.
The court rules that each case should be carefully considered under its own merits.
Since the situation that arise are not always typical, the right decision is not easily reached.
Therefore, it is recommended that further discussion is needed between you and your employer and that your landlord should wait until you find another place to live.

I was fired when the plant where I worked closed down. My employer simply told me not to come anymore as there would be nothing to do.
He said that he had to close the factory because of the deepening recession.
Can an employer dismiss employees without advance notice?

Article 20 of the Labor Standard Law (Rodo Kijun-ho) requires an employer to give employees at least 30 day's advance notice before dismissal.
If an employer fails to do so he/she must pay employees at least 30 days' wages.
However, there are some exceptions.
An employer can dismiss an employee under the following circumstances without advance notice, but he/she must report his/her action to the Labor Standard Inspection Office:

If the business was suspended because of a natural disaster or some other unavoidable reason, such as fire destroying business premises, or legal business suspension;
If the dismissal is attributable to the employee; e.g. dishonesty, vandalism, and so on.
However, business suspension because of financial difficulties or a business decline are not regarded as unavoidable reasons, in which case you can request 30 days' wages.
Moreover, employees who are employed on a daily basis and are employed on consecutive days for one month or less are not covered by this clause.
In general, employees who are employed for a fixed period of not longer than two months, seasonally employed for a fixed period of not longer than 4 months, and those who are on a 14 day-period of probation, are not covered by this clause, either.

(Notice of Dismissal)
Article 20. (1) If an employer wishes to dismiss an employee, the employer shall provide at least 30 days' advance notice. An employer who does not give 30 days' advance notice shall pay the average wages for the number of days short of 30 days. However, this shall not apply if continuance of the enterprise has been made impossible by a natural disaster or other unavoidable cause, nor when an employee is dismissed for reasons attributable to him/her.
(2) The number of days of notice under the preceding paragraph may be reduced if an employer pays the average wage for each day by which the period is reduced.

Article 21. The provisions of the preceding Article shall not apply to any employees coming under one of the following items; provided, however, that this shall not be the case with respect to an employee coming under item 1 who has been employed consecutively for more than one month, an employee coming under either item 2 or 3 who has been employed consecutively for more than the period set forth in each of these items respectively, nor an employee coming under item 4 who has been employed consecutively for more than 14 days;

employees who are employed on a daily basis

employees who are employed for a fixed period of not longer than two months

employees who are employed in seasonal work for a fixed period of not longer than 4 months

employees on a probationary period

I suffered a broken leg when I dropped a steel rod on my leg while working at a construction site.
The next day my employer fired me, saying that I would not be able to work. He said he was authorized to dismiss me because the accident was my fault.

In your case, your employer cannot fire you.
The Labor Standards Law prohibits an employer from dismissing an employee while the employee is on sick leave to undergo medical treatment for a job-related illness or injury.
Also, an employer cannot fire an employee within 30 days of returning to work (Article 19)
The Labor Ministry gives directions that an employer should do his/her best to help such employee return to work place; for working hours for a period of medical treatment and gradually return him/her to the normal work level without difficulty.
However, there is an event that an employee is unable returning to work for 3 years after an accident. Then, the Labor Standards Law no longer protects the employee in case of that he/she receives Discontinuance Compensation or Physical Handicap Compensation Pension (Article 75,81, Labor Standards Law; Article 19, Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance Law).

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7. Labor Union

My employer has not paid me nor has he given me the holidays promised before I came to Japan.
We haven't reached an agreement yet despite several discussions. I'd like to organize a labor union to better negotiate with the company for foreign colleagues as well as myself.
What do I have to do to organize a labor union?

Even foreign employees have the right to organize a labor union, bargain collectively and go on strike.
These rights are guaranteed by the Constitution of Japan for every employee, regardless of nationality.
In addition, the Labor Unions Law safeguards against unfair labor practices and provides a labor committee system to affirm the rights of workers. It also provides for the requirements of a labor union that can be protected by the law.
According to the law, a labor union shall be;

an organization formed substantially by employees,

independent of the employer, and

an organization that operates in a democratic manner (in terms of the operation of the union itself as well).

If such requirements are properly met, a labor union can make its presence known, and there is no need to be authorized by any civil authority or report thereto.
A labor union as such shall have at least two members.
Most Japanese labor unions are company ones, but there are no legal regulations outlining how a labor union may be formed.
Consequently, employees may organize a labor union by region, occupation, or by affiliated companies.
A labor union shall have the right to bargain collectively with the company for which its members work, regardless of the number of members.
There is no system in Japan like the exclusive negotiation representative system in the United States of America (where only a labor union that has a majority of employees is endowed with the right to bargain collectively).

Labor Unions Law (Labor Unions)
Article 2. Labor unions under the present law shall be those organizations, or federations thereof, formed autonomously and substantially by employees for the main purpose of maintaining and improving working conditions and for raising the economic status of employees.

I am a student at a Japanese language school. I work at a restaurant almost every day to supplement my income.
My hourly payment was initially \800, and the employer promised to give me a raise sooner or later, but he has not raised my salary at all so far.
I was not able to discuss it well with my employer because I could not make myself understood in Japanese.
Although this concerns only me, would I be able to get any support from a labor union?

Although you are staying in Japan with a "student" resident status, as long as you work, you are, of course, under the protection of the labor laws, and you can expect support from a labor union.
The simplest way is to join a joint labor union, which you can join as an individual, and negotiate with your employer through the union.
There are not many joint labor unions in Japan now, but it is not unusual for a joint labor union to provide a labor advisory service to an individual who does not belong to the union, and find a solution to the problem together after he/she joins the union.
If you need more detailed information, please go to a joint labor union for a consultation.
As mentioned earlier, a labor union has the right to bargain collectively with the company for which a union mender is working, regardless of the number of members.
This means that even if you are the sole member of your company who belongs to the labor union, the union can bargain collectively with the company for you.
If this is the case, a company is legally obliged to satisfy a request for collective bargaining from the union. If the company refuses without any fair and appropriate reason, it will constitute an unfair labor practice by the employer.
This will be more favorable to the employee than if he/she negotiates with the company by himself/herself.
If an employer treats an employee disadvantageously by dismissal or reducing his/her wages because the employee has joined a labor union, this also constitutes an unfair labor practice.
If an employer commits an unfair labor practice like this, the labor union or a member employee will be entitled to complain against such an unfair labor practice to the Labor Relations Commission.
The Labor Relations Commission will then make inquiries into, and consider the matter.
If the commission finds the labor practices in question to be unfair, it will issue an order to protect the employee. In addition to this, the labor committee is supposed to act positively as a third party to solve labor disputes by reconciliation, mediation or arbitration.

Labor Unions Law (Unfair Labor Practice)
Article 7. An employer shall be forbidden to carry out the following practices;

to discharge or discriminate against an employee by reason of his/her being a member of a labor union, having tried to join or organize a labor union, or having performed official acts of a labor union; or to make it a condition of employment that the employee must not join or must withdraw from a labor union; (A provisory clause is omitted.)

to refuse collective bargaining with the representative of an employee or employees by an employer without fair and appropriate reason;

to control or interfere with the formation or management of a labor union by employees or to give financial support thereto in defraying the labor union's operational expenditure. (A provisory clause is omitted.)


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8. Industrial Injury

Please explain in detail how the insurance plan can be used when a foreign employee has an accident at work.

The level of medical coverage for industrial injury to an employee is the same for foreigners and Japanese.
Because of language difficulties, however, a foreign employee might experience unexpected problems.
You should be aware of the following important points so that you can exercise your full right:

1) To get appropriate medical treatment by the insurance plan,
First, you must find an appropriate hospital.
This means that (a) it should be a hospital designated to provide medical treatment under the benefits of Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance, and (b) the hospital should have adequate facilities and doctors to provide the varying levels of treatment necessary for sick and injured patients.
You must be very careful to choose the right hospital, because it has a tremendous effect on the kind of medical treatment and compensation you will receive.
Foreigner facing such an important decision need help, because most do not know even the name or location of a hospital.
Therefore, it is necessary for those close to them to give support in finding an appropriate hospital.
Secondly, in the case of an injury, a doctor has to be told as precisely as possible the circumstances of the accident and current condition of the patient.
Receiving appropriate medical treatment depends on a high level of proficiency in Japanese in order to report the details of the accident and resulting situation.
To be sure that you receive the right treatment, it is also essential to describe verbally your condition and any symptoms such as pain, numbness, and so on, which only a patient can do.
Even for a minor injury, some conversation is necessary for a doctor to make a diagnosis of the potential effect on the nervous system. Especially when determining the possibility of internal injuries, a doctor must be able to converse with the patient.
At this time, if they cannot communicate well, wrong, or possibly poor treatment may be given as a result of incorrect diagnosis. This will cause further problems later in the course of the procedures required for receiving medical compensation.

2) The right procedures for medical compensation benefits
Should you become ill, it is very important that your name and date of birth should be recorded accurately in medical records.
This avoids problems that might arise if you are not identified properly in the future. There have often been cases when a person's common name is not the same as the official name in a passport.
There have also been instances in which person who is taking care of the injured or sick person reports his/her common name incorrectly.
Further problems may result because a patient's name is written in katakana and he/she cannot check it closely with the original. You should make every effort to avoid such problems, and should make sure your name is correct, before initiating procedures for obtaining medical compensation benefits.

3) In the case of medical treatment without this plan
There are many cases in which medical cost benefits have not been obtained through Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance:
In the case of non-documented (illegal) employees, an employer does not want to accept responsibility and thus tries to conceal the incident.
Another cases is where medical treatment is not carried out under the coverage of an insurance plan, although the employer plans to enroll in Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance for the future.
In any case where such compensation benefits are not used, there is the question of who will cover the medical expenses.
An employee often uses either National Health Insurance or Employees' Health Insurance. But most illegal employees are not enrolled in either kind of insurance plan, and they have to pay their full expenses by themselves.
In such cases, the cost can be enormous, depending on the severity of the injury or illness. When hospitalization is required, large medical bills can be expected.
Because of uncertainty about who will pay for these expenses, a hospital may refuse treatment.
In some instances that have come to the attention of the Labor Administration Division:
(a) An employee was given medical compensation by an employer at first but received no further payment, and (b) although an employer paid for medical expenses, no temporary disability benefit was given.
The only solution is for an employee to be sure in advance that medical compensation benefits will be paid, or to request that the employer assume all such obligations when a contract is concluded.

I quit my job immediately after I was involved in an accident at my work place.
Does Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance cover me?

Yes, it does.
The insurance covers you, even if you quit your job or are dismissed by your employer. If the injury or illness attributed to your job becomes worse and requires medical treatment some years later, your expenses will be covered, also if you suffer a relapse.
You should ask your former employer to sign your compensation application form. Your employer may refuse to do so, saying your illness or injury was not related to work. However, you can still submit the application without your employer's signature.
It is up to the Labor Standards Inspection Office, not your employer, to judge whether or not your injury or illness deserves compensation. It is you who submit the application, not your employer; and therefore, it is important for you to do so by yourself and to wait for the judgement by the office.
You are expected to claim compensation within 2 years, and therefore, you should apply for the insurance as soon as possible (Article 42, Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance Law).
Your employer cannot dismiss you. The Labor Standards Law prohibits an employer from dismissing an employee while the employee is no sick leave undergoing medical treatment for a job-related illness or injury.
The only exception is the case of an accident while commuting.

(Restriction on Dismissal of Workers)
Article 19. (1) An employer shall not dismiss an employee during a period of rest for medical treatment with respect to injuries or illnesses suffered in the course of duty nor within 30 days thereafter, and shall not discharge a woman during a period of rest before and after childbirth in accordance with the provisions of Article 65 nor within 30 days thereafter; however, this shall not apply if the employer pays compensation for termination in accordance with Article 81 nor when the continuance of the enterprise has been made impossible by a natural disaster or other unavoidable cause.
(2) In the event of circumstances under the latter part of the proviso of the preceding paragraph, the employer shall obtain the approval of the administrative office with respect to the reason in question.

I lost a finger in a press.
The major causes of the accident were that

the company did not give me enough instruction on how to operate to machine; and

the company made me operate the machine without any safety guards on it.

Since the company is unwilling to take care of the accident by applying for Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance, I have to do something to get some assistance from them.
What can I do?

Generally in such cases, claims for compensation are based on the Civil Law. There are justified through defaults in obligation by an employer, when safety requirements have been neglected (Article 415, Civil Law), which is an unlawful act (Article 709, Civil Law).
An employer is responsible for the safe operation of machinery and must instruct employees so that they will not endanger themselves during working hours.
For example, an employer must give the necessary training to those who operate a machine for the first time, familiarizing them with any danger involved with the machine and its operation, and instructing them in its proper and safe operation.
If your employer is at fault for violating safety requirements, you can claim compensation based on the Civil Law.
However, an individual who causes damage intentionally or through carelessness is held responsible for compensation.
The obligation to make compensation under the Civil Law differs from that of Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance and is recognized only when an accident occurred through the fault of the employer.
Also if there is any fault on the employee's part, the employer's liability is reduced.
The following damages are included in compensation for loss under the Civil Law;

Material damages: Medical treatment, transportation and other expenses for medical treatment,

Allowance for business suspension: The amount of wages that the employee would have earned had he/she not been in an accident; the sum of monthly wages up to the time of retirement, and retirement allowance, etc, in the case of disability or death,

Solatium payment: Compensation for the employee and his family.

In civil cases, the prescribed period for claming compensation is 10 years for defaults of obligation (Article 167, Civil Law), 3 years from the time of the injury and the person who caused it are known in an investigation of an unlawful act, and 20 years from the beginning of the case (Article 724, Civil Law).

I'm doing on-the-job training at a metal plant as a kenshusei(trainee).
While in the course of training, I injured my leg. Does Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance cover the medical expenses?

In principle, trainees are not regarded as workers. They are not protected by the labor laws such as the Labor Standards Law, the Minimum Wages Law and the Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance Law.
Since training is not regarded as actual work, trainees cannot be compensated by Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance which covers employment-related illness or injuries.
Instead, the Justice Ministry has issued an ordinance requiring employers to have trainees insured for unexpected illnesses and injuries during the training period. Trainers also have to maintain the same safety standards and sanitary facilities as stipulated in the Labor Safety and Sanitation Law.
The type of insurance mentioned above is comprehensive insurance other than Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance and is something like the insurance for the exclusive use of foreign trainees or travel accident insurance sold by private companies.
The premium should be paid by those who provide you with training. Therefore, the compensation for your injury depends on the kind of insurance your trainer bought.
On the other hand, there was one instance where training was judged to be actual work by the Labor Standards Inspection Office, and accordingly, the trainee who was regarded as an actual worker was covered by Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance.
In fact, some companies suffering from a labor shortage might force trainees to work in the name of training. According to the ordinance concerning job trainees, on-the-job training must account for no more than two-thirds of the entire training period and the rest must be classroom study.
If you are only assigned on-the-job training, your actual training is the same as work.
If you are instructed to work overtime as a trainee, it is also considered "work", not "training".
Under a new system, however, if you are a vocational trainee, you are protected by the labor laws, and accordingly, if you suffer from employment related illness or injury, you can be compensated by Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance. The government established a new vocational training system on April 1,1993.
The aim of this system is to train people to a higher level of technical skills in an employment situation.
If you want to be a vocational trainee, however, you have to be regarded as a trainee who has acquired a higher level of technical skills after the completion of the on-the-job training.

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9. Health Insurance

What is Employees' Health Insurance?
When a foreigner wants to apply for this insurance, what are the conditions?

When a employee needs medical treatment, Employees' Health Insurance pays for medical fees and benefits for injury and sickness.
The financial resources are derived in principle from the employees and from subsidies by the national government.
When you join Employees' Health Insurance, you will be issued with a health insurance card. You should present it when you go for treatment or consultation at a medical facility.

Medical care benefits (Partial cost sharing for Insured person: 20 percent of the actual expenses, Partial cost sharing for Dependant: 30 percent of the actual expenses), Benefits for high-cost medical care and Transference expenses, etc.

You will pay in principle 20 percent of your doctor's bill in case of illness or injury.
Benefits vary according to the kind of insurance. Cash benefits are provided for injury, sickness, or child-birth, during absence from work. Maternity allowance and funeral expenses are also provided.
Maternity allowance (the amount of allowance shall be 60 percent of the insured person's daily standard remuneration during maternity leave ), Lump-sum allowance for childbirth and nursing (300,000yen), Spouse's lump-sum allowance for childbirth and nursing (if the dependant spouse of the male gives birth to a baby, 300,000yen).

Those who are required to join Employees' Health Insurance are employees who work regularly for a company, a factory, etc., or at their respective places of work for an applicable enterprise such as all organizations and corporations with 5 or more regular employees (excluding farming, fisheries and the like), regardless of their nationality, position, and sex.
The monthly premiums of Health Insurance are determined in accordance with the employees' wages, and are shared equally between the employer and the insured person. As the employer must pay both the shared premiums together each month, the employee's premium shall be deducted form his/her wages.

[Premiums of Social Insurance]

Health Insurance;
Multiply the Monthly standard remuneration by contribution rate 85/1000 (shared equally by employer and employee)

Employees' Pension Insurance;
Multiply the Monthly standard remuneration by 173.5/1000 (shared equally by employer and employee)

[Special premiums]

Health Insurance;
Multiply the amount of bonus by 8/1000 (employer: 5/1000 and employee: 3/1000)

Employees' Pension Insurance;
Multiply the amount of bonus by 10/1000 (employer: 5/1000 and employee: 5/1000)

Family members of an insured person may be provided with some insurance benefits of his/her dependants, if they are covered by the following conditions;

Relatives within the third degree, who are supported by the insured person's income.

Their annual incomes should be less than 1,300,000yen (less than 1,800,000yen if the person's age 60 or over or disabled.)

Their annual income should be less than a half of the annual income of the insured person.

Accordingly, every foreign employee employed regularly by such employers is eligible for benefits as the insured.
On March 31, 1992, the Insurance Section of the Ministry of Health and Welfare issued a notice about a new health insurance plan for foreign residents. The details of its content are that "documented workers recognized by the government including short-term employees are to be treated the same as Japanese".
According to the notice, Health Insurance benefits apply to foreign residents based on the territorial principle. Regarding the insured, the notice does not specify any nationalities but is restricted to "documented workers". It may, therefore, become almost impossible for non-documented workers to be covered by the insurance plan.
Individuals to whom any of the provisions below apply are excluded;

temporary employees (excluding those who continue to work for one month or more)

temporary employees who work for a specified period of 2 months or less (excluding those who continue to work after completion of the specified period of 2 months),

seasonal employees working for less than 4 months (excluding those who continue to work after completion of the specified period of 4 months)

temporary employees of less than 6 months standing (excluding those who continue to work for more than 6 months).

In order to enroll in Employees' Health Insurance, you are required to have working hours and days in excess of 3/4 of those of the average employee. The requirement may disqualify some foreign instructors who work at language schools as short-term employees. With the exceptions noted above, however, all foreign employees are eligible for Employees' Health Insurance.

Under the Japanese social insurance system, those who become insured persons under Employees' Health Insurance simultaneously have to join Employees' Pension Insurance.
Actually, however, only a few foreign employees want to join Employees' Health Insurance. They say it is because those who have no intention of residing in Japan for a long period have to give up the pension insurance premiums that they pay.
In April, 1995, therefore, the system of lump-sum withdrawal payments for short-stay foreign employees in Japan was established. Under the system, lump-sum payment are paid to foreign employees after leaving Japan, in consideration of the fact that they will not be able to collect the pension in their old age.
Lump-sum withdrawal payments are granted to persons who are insured for 6 months or more, persons who have never had the right to receive pension payment (including allowances for the handicapped), and persons who do not have a place of residence in Japan, if an application is filed within two years of leaving Japan. They should follow the procedures below for claiming lump-sum payments:

Obtain a claim form from Social Insurance Office before leaving Japan.

Fill in all the required information and mail it to the address of the Social Insurance Operation Center.

The amount of lump-sum payment calculated by multiplying the average standard monthly allowance by rates shown in the following table according to the insured period shall be granted to them:

Insured Person Coverage Period Rate
6 months or more, but under 12 months 0.5
12 months or more, but under 18 months 1.0
18 months or more, but under 24 months 1.5
24 months or more, but under 30 months 2.0
30 months or more, but under 36 months 2.5
36 months or more 3.0

Please note that 20 percent for income tax is withheld from the lump-sum payment at the time of payment.

Lump-sum withdrawal payments are also granted to persons who have paid National Pension Insurance premiums.

Please ask at the Social Insurance Office for more details.

What is National Health Insurance?
What are the conditions when a foreign employee wants to join this system?

National Health Insurance is funded by national government subsidies, by member's monthly insurance payments, and by part of the costs of medical treatment for which members pay at hospitals.
It is mandatory for those who reside in Japan more than one year to have National Health Insurance, excluding the insured and family of persons with Employees' Health Insurance, Marine Insurance, Union Insurance (managed by local governments).
You are required to file at your regional government office. If you join this plan, one card per household as a rule is delivered to you from the office, and by just showing your card, you can receive medical treatment at any doctor's office belonging to the plan.
You will pay in principle 30 percent of your doctor's bill in case of illness or injury.
Premiums are calculated based on the amount of residential tax and the number of insured people, and vary according to a member's income and place of residence.
On March 7, 1986, the National Health Insurance Law was revised and foreigners became eligible to apply. Insured persons include those who have a place of residence in special wards or cities, towns, or villages. Accordingly, those who reside in the country for only a short period of time and those who have no certificate of alien registration, such as tourists, are excluded.
On March 31, 1992, eligibility requirements were further clarified and standardized: A person is eligible to join National Health Insurance if they meet following requirements:

they are registered under the terms of the Alien Registration Law.

they are admitted to the country to reside in Japan one year or longer by Immigration.

A person who says in the country for longer than one year without permission is ineligible to be insured. It can be said that as a rule, "non-documented (illegal)" employees are not any eligible for National Health Insurance.

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10. The Immigration Control Act

I hear that a foreign student is required to have a guarantor during his/her stay in Japan.
I would like to know; i) why a guarantor is necessary, and ii) what sort of obligation a guarantor has.

Under the terms of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (Immigration Control Act), a foreign student or foreign resident who is engaged in cultural activities is required to submit in writing the name of a Japanese guarantor.
The guarantor is responsible for guaranteeing that person's living expenses as well as the expenses required to return to his/her home country, and for helping the person to understand Japanese Laws.
To confirm the status of a guarantor, the Immigration Bureau requires the following information to be submitted:

Name of guarantor

Reason for being a guarantor


Resident's card

Certification of tax payment

Certificate of seal impression

Written guarantee accepting responsibility for living expenses and so on.

These items are subject to change by some immigration bureau offices.

As a legal obligation, a guarantor is required to submit the items mentioned above.
The guarantor is not responsible, however, for such obligations as debts or damages incurred by a student; a guarantor is not required to assume joint obligation for these.
What a guarantor is expected to guarantee to a student is assistance in financial support and guidance for living in Japan by keeping the Japanese Laws.
If the student has a specific problem, the guarantor has no obligation or responsibility for damages that may have result from carelessness on the student's part.
And, of course, no penalty is imposed on the guarantor, who is understood to have a moral obligation under the Immigration Control Act.

I have a problem returning home, because my employer has my passport and has told me that I will be fined for overstaying my visa if I go to the Immigration Bureau.
Is this true?

You will have no difficulty returning home even if you do not have your passport.
We advise you to go to an Immigration Bureau office and explain that your current situation is due to some particular reasons or unavoidable circumstances.
You should also ask the office for help with your missing passport and should report it to the police as a theft.
If you still cannot get the passport back, as a last resort you should contact the embassy of your home country in Japan with an urgent request for their assistance.
As soon as they have confirmed your identity, a new passport or a substitute can be issued.
The Immigration Bureau will then investigate your possible violation and may request your deportation for overstaying your visa.
In that case, you will be returned to your own country. If you register an objection to the deportation, it is possible to obtain a temporary restraint by the Ministry of Justice. Even with such a restraint, however, you may still be deported after an investigation, which takes from three days to a week.
Even if you go to the Immigration Bureau office, you will not be fined. Your money and personal belongings may be held temporarily for inspection, but they definitely will be returned to you. You will have to buy your own plane ticket to return home, however.

I have a contract that was submitted to the Immigration Bureau office stating that my monthly wages are 300,000yen.
My employer later made another contract under the terms of which I receive only 250,000yen per month.
Can I make a legal claim for the additional 50,000yen?

The newly amended Immigration Control Act states that a foreign worker shall receive wages the same as or higher than those of Japanese workers in the categories of investor, business manager, medical services, researcher, instructor and engineer; a foreign worker shall receive more than \250,000 in monthly wages in the categories of specialist in humanities and international services and inter-company transferee; and a foreign worker shall receive more than \200,000 in monthly wages in the category of entertainer.
The purpose of establishing these minimum remuneration levels is to avoid an increase in the number of low-salaried foreign workers. This is implicit in stating the remuneration for each category.
Since those working in investment, business management, medical services, research, instruction, and engineering tend to be competitive with their Japanese counterparts, a higher remuneration was established in comparison with that of the average Japanese employee. Because, however, specialists in humanities and international services and inter-company transferees are required to possess certain knowledge and understanding based on foreign culture, it is rather unlikely that they would compete with Japanese. Therefore, a specific level of remuneration is stated. In the category of entertainer, the form and type of which are varied, here too it is almost impossible to make comparisons with Japanese counterparts, so a specific amount was stated.
The act thus proposes that a language instructor working at a language school or cultural or international organization should receive at least \3 million in annual wages including bonuses.
In considering what effect these rules specifying remuneration can be expected to have on labor contracts, it is difficult to conclude that standard rules made for administrative purposes (in this case, entry requirements) should be applied to the content of employment contacts.
Even if you file a suit with the Immigration Bureau, you could be denied permission for entry because the requirements for entry have not been satisfied. But you cannot expect to correct the conditions of an employment contract based on the rules stated above. If monthly wages of \300,000 are clearly stated in a contract, you have the right to make a claim for the difference and to claim a breach of contract.
Unfortunately, you will have difficulty establishing a claim for that difference unless the contract was made under coercion or by deception.

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11. Tax

Income tax is deducted from my salary.
I'm not quite sure about national taxation.
Please explain the details for foreign workers in Japan.

There are two taxation systems in Japan; national taxes and local taxes. The personal incomes of foreign workers employed by Japanese companies are subject to income tax (national taxes) and residential taxes (local taxes).
Income tax is included in national taxes levied by the national government. Residential taxes are included in local taxes collected by cities, towns and villages. The following is a brief explanation:

I. Income Tax
1) Liability of foreign employees in Japan for tax payment:
If you have a domicile ("Jusho") in Japan or you have resided continuously in Japan for one year or longer, you are a resident for tax purpose (Article 2, Income Tax Law), and individual income from wages and salaries is regarded as domestic source of income and treated the same as Japanese employees' income (Article 161, Income Tax Law).
Please note that a person entering Japan as an employee is deemed to be a resident immediately upon his entry into Japan unless evidence shows that his stay in Japan is to be less than one year.

1) How to compute employment income:
All income paid in Japan during the period of one year (from January 1 through December 31) is taxable employment income.
The following shows how to calculate employment income:
There are three steps to calculate total income tax.

Employment income receipts-Employment income deductions
= Net employment income

Net employment income-deductions and exemptions
= Taxable income ( =tax base)

Tax base * Tax rate
= Total income tax

The tax rate is fixed according to your ordinary income amount (10%-50%), and various specific deductions are made depending on circumstances.

2) The withholding tax system:
Under the Japanese Income Tax Law, the withholding tax system is widely adopted. If the payment of salaries, wages and other allowances are made in Japan, income tax is withheld at source by the employer, and should be paid to the government by the employer (Article 183, Income Tax Law). The amount of premiums for social insurance paid may be deducted from the total income amount, which is subject to employment income tax.

3) The year-end-adjustment:
In general, the year-end-adjustment is a device to equalize (i) the total amount of withholding income tax actually withheld in a year from payments to an employee; and (ii) his/her annual tax liability to be retained from the total of those payments. It should be made by the employer who is liable for withholding tax in the last salary payment in a year. Usually, it is made in December when a year-end-salary is paid. (Article 190, Income Tax Law).

4) Who must file:
You are required to file a final return with the tax office during the period from February 16 to March 15, if any of the provisions below apply to your situation:

total employment income receipts for the year exceeded \15,000,000 or

a person received employment income from two or more sources or various types of income other than employment and retirement income.

employment income was exempt from withholding income tax because the person was a domestic employee or an employer of a foreign embassy or legation in Japan.

a person received employment income abroad.

In addition, there are some cases where you are entitled to a partial or total refund of the withheld tax amounts by virtue of deductions for medical expenses or a special credit for the purchase of a residence, when you file an final return for a tax refund.
Also, please note that if you (resident or non-resident) depart from Japan during the year you work without designating a tax agent, you are required to file a final return during the period from the year you work to the time of departure from Japan, by the date of departure.

5) Credit for foreign taxes:
In order to eliminate international double taxation on income, a tax payer who pays foreign taxes, national or local, which are similar to Japanese income tax may choose to have the amount of those foreign taxes credited against his/her Japanese income tax. In this case you are expected to file a final return.

6) Certificate of tax deducted at sources:
The employer, who is liable to withhold tax, is legally required to issue every employee with a "withholding certificate" (gensen-chooshuu-hyoo) on which the final and definite amount computed by the year-end adjustment is given, by January 31.
If someone retires in the course of the year, the employer should issue the certificate within one month after the day of the retirement (Article 226, Income Tax Law).
The law stipulates that the employer should prepare a certificate for the employee certifying that the employee has made a final and definite payment of income tax in the year.

7) Liability of Non-residents
Non-residents are subject to income tax on all or part of their income from domestic sources depending on individual circumstances (Article 164, Income Tax Law). For example, a non-resident who is an employee is subject to Japanese income tax at the rate of 20 percent of gross salary, wages and other allowances by means of withholding at source when the payment is made in Japan.
With respect to non-residents, collection of income tax varies depending on type and circumstances. Also, there are some cases where special measures are provided by international tax treaties.
Please contact your tax office or regional taxation bureau for detailed information as the treaty provisions are very complicated.

II. Residential Taxes
1) When to pay:
Residential taxes are based on your previous year's income and are paid to the local government of the area in which you reside on January 1st of the year. The amount of tax due for the year is finalized as of that date, and therefore, you are expected to pay it even if you leave the country after the due date.

2) Taxpayer:
Individuals domiciled in cities, towns or villages as of January 1st of each year are liable for paying taxes based on per capita levy and per income levy (Article 9, Local Tax Law), and cities, towns or villages collect the taxes (Article 24, Local Tax Law).

3) How to compute

Amount of Residential Tax per capita levy depending on cities, towns or villages
per income levy Income in the preceding year

The system for computing the amount per income levy is the same as that for national income tax, except for the tax rate and the amount of deductions and allowances.

4) How to decide/how to collect:
Income in the preceding year is taken as the tax basis. The amount of tax due is decided in or after April by cities, towns or villages and must be paid by the individual after he/she is notified.
Taxes of company employees and other salaried workers are calculated and paid automatically by their company from their salary (special levy) during the period from June to May of the following year. Workers other than the above are required to make a quarterly payment from June through January.

5) There are some cases where special measures are provided for credit by foreign taxes and international tax treaties. For more details please contact the City Hall in your district.
The above information applies to foreign employees in Japan whose employment income is paid from one company only. Employees who receive various kinds of income other than employment income are excluded.
For more details please contact the tax offices or the Taxation Section at a City Hall, since the Japanese taxation system is very complicated.

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