Bicycles, Insurance, and Laws (Oh My!)

On July 1st, 2016, in Osaka Prefecture, a new ordinance that requires all bicycle owners to have bicycle liability insurance came into effect. In addition, a lot of people might not know that, due to "a rise in the number of bicycle related fatalities, injuries, and accidents", a revision to the Japanese Road Traffic Law came into effect on June 1st, 2015.

If you've ever been unsure about bicycle laws, or if you've ever wondered if your bicycle adventures need insurance to prevent them from becoming costly misadventures, now is the time to look into things!

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Does Your Employer Have The Right To Record Video Of You?

Recently, a teacher working for Interac e-mailed the General Union in regards to the company's practice of recording video (and taking photos) of people during "ongoing training sessions", "observation lessons", and other occasions, without their prior consent. In addition, the teacher noted that even if people wanted to refuse, there is a clause in the employment contract which gives Interac the teacher's "understand[ing] and agree[ment]" to be recorded without permission.

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Paid Holidays: The Law vs Your Workplace

The July 24th (2016) edition of the Japan Times ("Questions About Paid Leave") provided a very good overview of the law covering paid leave (yūkyū kyūka). However, when taking this article into consideration, we must compare what the law guarantees versus the reality of your working environment.

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Berlitz Teacher Wins Court Case Against Japan Pension Service

On March 17th, 2016, at the District Court in Tokyo, an employee of Berlitz won a case against the Japan Pension Service for their decision (in 2008) to allow Berlitz to "kick [the employee] off" the Shakai Hoken system after his working hours dropped below thirty hours a week.

Berlitz had used the infamous "29.5 Hour Rule" as justification for their unethical practice, claiming that as the employee fell below the "30 Hour Threshold" he was no longer eligible for Shakai Hoken enrolment.

However, the "30 Hour Threshold" (and any claims that it is "the law") is nothing more than a myth - and the General Union recently proved this in court once and for all, paving the way for cases like this one to finally be considered seriously.

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part IV) - The Five Year Non-Compete Ban

One of the greatest tricks that a manager can pull from the pages of "Worker Exploitation 101" is to threaten an employee's livelihood.

The chilling effect that such intimidation can have upon an employee's willingness to stand up for their rights should not be underestimated - especially when a manager invokes contract clauses and legalese to sound more convincing.

In the fourth part of our "Illegal Contract Clause" series, we take a look at just how frightening those threats can be when you don't know your rights, and explain how the law is there to make sure that your manager's bark is worse than their bite.

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part III) - BL Kids International School

When it comes to contract disputes, telling someone that they "shouldn't have signed it" if they "didn't agree with it" is probably one of the most frustrating things that a person can do.

It's up there with unhelpful titbits of divine wisdom like "you should have read it properly!" and "you should have read the fine print!" that don't serve any real purpose other than shifting the blame from the exploiter to the exploited.

Here's the thing about contracts, though: just because you sign a contract, it doesn't mean that you agree to the illegal clauses within it.

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part II) - Kinder Kids

In regards to contract laws, an unconscionable contract is a contract that is "so extremely unjust, or overwhelmingly one-sided in favor of the party who has the superior bargaining power, that they are contrary to good conscience".

These kinds of contracts are often deemed to be entirely unenforceable, due to the fact that no sensible person, were they suitably informed, would agree to them.

The key word here, however, is "informed".

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Illegal Contract Clauses (Part I) - Joytalk

In some countries, an illegal clause in a contract will void the entire contract. However, it may surprise some people to learn that this is not the case in Japan.

If a contract contains illegal clauses, the contract remains valid - however, the illegal clauses in question can not be enforced, and are always superseded by the written law.

With this in mind, the General Union is looking into writing a series of articles that will seek to highlight and challenge the various illegal clauses that exist within the contracts that dispatch companies, English conversation schools, and other companies in Japan, often require foreign employees to sign.

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"My Number" System - Points and Reminders

Now that people are starting to receive their new "My Number" social security and tax number system card, here are few important reminders to be aware of:

• The PAPER CARD is mandatory. Keep it safe.

• The PLASTIC CARD is entirely optional, and must be applied for. The application documents are contained in the envelope that the paper card is delivered in.

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Everything You Need To Know About "My Number"

As of January 2016, local governments and various organizations across Japan began to use the "My Number" system to quickly obtain social security and tax information about an individual via one collated source.

But what is the "My Number" system?

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Notice Of Resignation - The Truth

"I've just received my tax and health insurance bills. I need more money and I've found a job paying more. I signed a one-year contract, but I'm only six months into it.  How much notice do I have to give my company before I can quit?"

"The company lied to me about a lot of things in my job interview. They are paying me less money in the summer. I only get 5 days holidays. I'm really unhappy. I want to quit."

"There's no support here. I'm not adjusting to life in Japan. It's time to go home. They want to fine me for not finishing my contract."

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Don't bang your head against the wall. File a grievance.

Union wins grievance procedure at Relo Panasonic Excel

After many years of trying, and having only informal "gentlemen" agreements about individual grievances, union members at Panasonic now how have a formal grievance procedure in place to deal with their problems.

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Non-Compete Clauses, The Law, And You

"I want to quit my job and work for another company. However, my contract has a non-compete clause that states that I am prohibited from working for another company in the same industry. Is this legal?"

If you've ever decided to leave your current dispatch company (haken kaisha) or conversation school (eikaiwa) for a different employer, you might have discovered that there was a "non-compete" clause in your contract that - on paper - seems to prohibit you actually doing so.

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Changing Your Residence Status? You Don't Always Need To Leave Japan

"I came to Japan on a Working Holiday Visa / Holiday Visa. While in Japan, I interviewed with a company and was offered a position.

However, my company says that I have to leave Japan and apply for a Work Visa at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. Is this true?"

While many companies may insist that you absolutely have to leave Japan in order to invalidate a Working Holiday Visa or a Tourist Visa, and then apply for a "Work Visa" (Instructor Visa / Specialist in Humanities Visa), this is not the case.

You generally DO NOT have to leave Japan to travel to a Japanese Embassy in South Korea or Thailand.

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Don't Let Profit Hungry Companies Eat Your Holidays

While NOVA may have finally understood the message that a worker's holidays are provided to them by the Labor Standards Act and cannot be denied by a company without sufficient reason (NO VAcation on Saturdays), other companies are not so shrewd.

Take INTERAC's holiday request form, for example.

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Employers, Bank Accounts, and You

"Can my employer order me to open a bank account in order to receive my salary?"

Many dispatch companies and eikaiwa often insist that their new employees and contractors open a specific account with a specific bank at a specific branch - on occasion, even going so far as to send a member of staff out with the new employee to oversee the process.

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Maternity Leave And Child-Raising Leave In Japan

When planning for the future, finances are always high on the list of priorities, and planning for a family is no different.

Japan has some great government programs for parenting leave., and these programs are paid for by the government - not the employer.

However, because the employer has a vital role to play (and because the system can be a little tricky to navigate!), the union is here with some helpful pointers.

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Stop further deterioration to the Labour Dispatch Law

On October 28th, the House of Representatives in plenary session heard an explanation of the aims of the proposed "Amendment" to the Labor Dispatch Law, which was then submitted to the Welfare and Labor Committee (W&LC). The W&LC has regular meetings on Wednesdays and Fridays, so in the worst-case scenario the bill could have potentially be steamrollered through on November 7th.

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Working On A National Holiday?

Many of you might not know this, but national holidays are not guaranteed under Japanese Labor Law.

In addition, companies generally aren't required to pay overtime or special premiums to those who work national holidays as part of their regular schedule.

It is up to companies if they grant national holidays or not - or up to unions to win them.

It can be done.

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Part timers eligible for paid holidays

Has your company told you you don't qualify for holidays because you are part-time, or because you work on short term contracts? This is simply untrue. Part-timers are entitled to between one and 20 days.

Your company is required by law to offer both full-timers & part-timers a set number of flexible holidays based on the number of years service (days to be used at your discretion).

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Working in Tokyo? Your company is bound by special ordinances

On April 1, 2013 the Tokyo Metropolitan Government implemented the Stranded Commuters Ordinance.  This is a direct result of what was learned from the Tohoku Earthquake of 2011. At the time, 5.15 million people were stranded in metropolitan Tokyo.

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Union steps in to help parent denied Childcare Leave Allowance by Hello Work

Childcare leave is available in Japan for both men and women. And if you are enrolled in unemployment insurance you might be eligible to receive a substantial portion of your salary while you are off work. Things aren’t always so easy, as one General Union member recently found.

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Quit - Or You're Fired!

Every year, the General Union is successful in challenging dismissals.

We win back jobs, win settlements for unfair dismissals, and - at the most basic level - make sure that members at least get their fair thirty days notice or pay in lieu of notice.

All these things become much harder the second you sign any sort of resignation letter.

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Law and Rights

The General Union takes no responsibility for any problems you may encounter by using this information in your own disputes with your employer. We have seen non-union members fired after talking about the law with their boss. It is far safer to join the union and negotiate with your company as an equal, rather than simply as an employee.

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Labour Standards Law - Women

Q: Does the Labour Standards Law say anything about menstrual leave?

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Threatened With Eviction? Know Your Rights

Do you live in accommodation provided by the language school you work for? Having an apartment ready and waiting for you on your arrival in Japan is certainly convenient, but when the people who pay your wages also provide the roof over your head, you could be in a very vulnerable position unless you know your rights.

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Additional information