In Japan, the elderly constitute a significant portion of the population, while the birthrate is plummeting. In response, the government is now trying to encourage more female employees to have children.

Two systems are in place for pregnant employees and employees raising children: maternity leave and childcare leave. Both can be unpaid.

There are two types of maternity leave: pre-birth leave and post-birth leave. Pre-birth maternity leave constitutes a six to 14-week period before the birth in which pregnant employees may, on request, cease work. Post-birth maternity leave is an eight-week period in which employees who have just given birth are prohibited from working (even if they would like to work).

Childcare leave is available for the first year of the child's life (in some cases, for 14 or 16 months), during which employees who are raising a child may cease work on request. Childcare leave is available for both female and male employees.

At present, employees and employers are exempt from paying social insurance premiums while employees are on childcare leave. Due to recent amendments to the applicable law, this exemption will be extended to employees on maternity leave. The amendments will enter into force on April 1 2014.

For further information on this topic please contact Hideki Thurgood Kano at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune by telephone (+81 3 6888 1000), fax (+81 3 6888 3061) or email ([email protected]).