The Government has enacted legislation to promote measures to prevent death due to overwork.

Japan is notorious for its overtime working culture. Karoushi (literally, death due to overwork) is a common phenomenon among Japanese working men. There are generally two types of death due to overwork – death caused by health problems, and suicide as a result of stress.

In our previous global e-bulletin, we discussed the heated debate in Japan over the introduction of an amendment law to extend the categories of employees who would no longer be eligible for overtime pay. It is hoped that introducing a “no-overtime pay” law will discourage employees from doing unnecessary overtime work, and produce a healthier and more productive workforce overall.

In addition, the Government has introduced an Act on the Promotion of Measures to Prevent Karoushi, which is expected to come into force by no later than 27 December 2014. This legislation was enacted after strong lobbying by bereaved family members whose loved ones have died from karoushi. It enshrines the Government’s responsibilities to conduct research on karoushi, provides for the establishment of a committee for the promotion of measures to prevent karoushi, and sets out the principle that the relevant parties (ie, the state, local government and businesses etc) should closely collaborate to prevent such deaths. The legislation also provides for November to be a karoushi awareness month.

To push this forward, the Government has already set up a hotline (which became operational on 1 September 2014) for both employers and employees to consult about working conditions and, in particular, excessive or unpaid overtime and impairment to health caused by excessive overtime work.

Actions for employers

There has been increasing awareness in Japan of the health implications and unproductivity caused by excessive overtime work. This legislation will encourage employers to create a more employee-friendly environment.