From December 2015 amendments to Japan’s Industrial Safety and Health Act will require employers regularly employing 50 workers or more to offer an annual stress check to employees. This will include staff on secondment to overseas offices. Workplaces with fewer than 50 regular employees are encouraged (including subsidies), but not required, to offer the stress checks. Employees are recommended but not obliged, to undergo the stress check offered.

These amendments are aimed at preventing work-related mental illness, by helping employees to identify impacts of stress and helping employers improve the work environment through collective analysis of data.

The Industrial Safety and Health Act (Article 18) requires employers to establish a ‘health committee’. The health committee will be expected to oversee introduction of the stress check system and arrange for tests to be conducted.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare expects the general stress check system to operate as follows:

  • employee undergoes stress check overseen by doctors/public health nurses;
  • results are delivered directly to the employee;
  • the conductor of the stress check may recommend the employee meets with a doctor, if detected stress levels warrant this;
  • employers must arrange a doctor interview of any employee who requests this in writing;
  • after the interview, the doctor, employer and employee will consult regarding any necessary remedial measures, such as shorter work hours or a change of workplace or job duties.

For stress checks, employers will have the option of using: (i) stress check software; (ii) another form of stress-check test; or (iii) a set of Ministry questions.

The results of stress tests are confidential; employee consent will be required before disclosure to the employer. An employer also cannot treat an employee unfavourably because they request a doctor interview, but such a request will be taken as implied consent to the employee’s initial stress check results being disclosed to the employer.

Actions for employers

  • From December 2015, all employers employing more than 50 regular employees must offer annual stress checks to employees. To assist with this, free stress check software should become available for download later this year.
  • After conducting stress checks, employers should submit a report to their labour standards office. The format for this form will be released late 2015.
  • Employers who don’t meet reporting requirement may face penalties.

For more details see the Ministry website.