In Japan, there are several important legislative amendments that will or may be introduced this year. The primary amendments include the following: 

Potential introduction of a Japanese version of the “white-collar exemption” 

The government has been working on a bill to amend the Labour Standards Act to introduce a certain “white-collar exemption” from overtime payment. The government’s current proposal reportedly limits the scope of exemption to “high-level professional jobs” and “employees whose salary is over JPY 10 million per annum” (and includes the introduction of a compulsory annual leave system, under which employers are required to designate when the relevant employee should take a portion of his or her annual leave). The government is reportedly considering to submit the bill to the ordinary Diet session within a couple of months. Employers should continue to carefully monitor any developments of the discussion over the bill. 

Potential removal of the upper limit of the worker dispatching periods 

Under the current Worker Dispatching Act, the maximum worker dispatching period (i.e the period for which a host company can receive a dispatched worker for a specific work assignment) is three years, except for 26 categories of specialised work. The government has been working on a bill to remove the three year limit for worker dispatching periods regardless of whether the relevant work assignment falls under the 26 categories. The bill has been scrapped twice due to clerical errors and the dissolution of the Lower House, but will likely be re-submitted to the ordinary Diet session in 2015. 

Expansion of protection for part-time workers 

The Part-Time Workers Act was amended to promote fair treatment of part-time workers so that they can work with more satisfaction. The main points of the amendments are briefly summarised below. The amendments will come into force on 1 April 2015.

  1. Currently, only part-time workers under employment contracts without any fixed term are protected from discriminatory treatment compared with regular employees. The amendments will expand this protection to include all part-time workers whose work duties and redeployment systems are the same as those of regular employees, regardless of whether their employment contracts have any fixed term. 
  2. The amendments will expressly establish a principle that employers must not treat any part-time workers differently from regular employees without reasonable grounds (taking into account work duties, redeployment systems and other circumstances). 
  3. Under the amendments, employers will need to explain what measures they would take to improve employment management for part-time workers when hiring the relevant part-time worker. Such measures can include salary systems, education and training programmes, welfare facilities and schemes to convert part-time workers into regular employees. Also, employers will need to set up a system to discuss with part-time workers certain matters such as the measures described above and familiarise part-time workers with such system. 
  4. The amendments will enable the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare to publicise the name of an employer who has breached its obligations regarding improvement of employment management for part-time workers (e.g. the obligations mentioned in (3) above) and has not complied with the Minister’s advice to remedy the situation.