This article provides a short overview of the major changes to employment law in Japan in 2017.

By: Kensuke Otsuki

Firm: Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

Amendment to the Act on Childcare and Family Care Leave

The amendment to the Act on Childcare and Family Care Leave came into effect on 1 January 2017. The purpose of this amendment is to help employees to balance their careers and child or family care, and it includes the following main points:

  • Under the previous Act, family care leave can only be taken at a single time for up to 93 days. The amended Act allows employees to divide the 93 days into three periods of leave.
  • The range of those eligible for family care leave has been expanded. Under the amended Act and enforcement regulation, employees who care for a grandparent, sibling or grandchild (including those who are not living with them or who are not their dependents) are allowed to take family care leave. Under the previous Act, employees who cared for grandparents, siblings or grandchildren who were not living with or dependent on them were not allowed to take family care leave.
  • Under the amended Act, the system for exemption from overtime work is generally applicable upon request to employees who are caring for a family member (under the previous Act, the system was only available to employees who were taking care of a child).
  • The requirements for fixed-term employees to apply for family care leave have been relaxed. Under the amended Act, fixed-term employees can take family care leave if at least one year has passed since the employee joined the company and it is not evident that the term of his or her employment agreement (or in the case where such agreement is renewed, the term of the employment agreement after renewal) will expire by the date on which six months plus 93 days have elapsed since the date on which the employee was to commence nursing care leave.
  • Under the amended Act, employees can take family care leave and childcare leave in half-day units.
  • The range of those eligible for childcare leave has been expanded. Under the amended Act, foster parents seeking to adopt a child are allowed to take childcare leave.
  • The requirements for fixed-term employees to apply for childcare leave have been relaxed. Under the amended Act, fixed-term employees can take childcare leave if at least one year has passed since the employee joined the company and it is not evident that the term of his or her employment contract (including the renewed term, if any) will expire by the date on which the child becomes 18 months old.

Act on Partial Amendment of the Act on Employment Insurance, etc.

The Act on Partial Amendment of the Act on Employment Insurance, etc. was passed by the Diet on 31 March 2017. Under the previous Act, an employee was generally entitled to take childcare leave until his or her child reached the age of one. However, in special cases, including when the child’s application for admission to a nursery was not accepted, the employee was granted leave for an additional six months. The maximum period of childcare leave under the previous Act was 18 months.

The amended Act allows an employee to take childcare leave for an additional six months so that the maximum period of leave becomes 24 months. This amendment came into effect on 1 October 2017.

Under the previous Act, Public Employment Security Offices (‘Hello Work Offices’) and private employment agencies were required to accept and post all job offers submitted to them except in exceptional circumstances (i.e., the contents of such offers violate any law or regulation or the working conditions indicated in such offers are found to be substantially inappropriate compared to prevailing working conditions, etc.).

The amended Act allows Hello Work Offices and private employment agencies to refuse to post job offers if the potential employer has repeatedly violated labour and employment laws and certain measures (such as punishment or publication of the company’s name) have been taken. This amendment will take effect within three years from the date of publication (31 March 2017).

Under the previous Act, a person who has carried out employment placement, labour recruitment, or labour supply by placing a false advertisement or by presenting false employment conditions could be punished by imprisonment for not more than 6 months or a fine of up to JPY 300,000 (a fine of up to JPY 300,000 would also be imposed against the company).

Under the amended Act, such punishments will also apply to a person who has filed a job offer that contains false information with Hello Work Offices or private employment agencies and to the company. This amendment came into effect on 1 January 2018.

Under the amended Act, in the course of recruiting, where the actual working conditions of the employment contract to be executed are different from those initially indicated, the company must clearly indicate the difference. This amendment came into effect on 1 January 2018. There was no such explicit requirement under the previous Act.

Amendment to the Personal Information Protection Act

The Personal Information Protection Act (‘PIPA’) did not originally place restrictions specifically on the transfer of personal data to countries outside Japan. An amendment to the PIPA, which came into force on 30 May 2017, introduced new restrictions on transferring data abroad. Under the Amended PIPA, in principle, the provision of personal data would require the consent of the person concerned if the receiving party handles personal data outside Japan.

Minimum Wage

In Japan, minimum wages for each prefecture are set by that prefecture in accordance with the Minimum Wage Law. In Tokyo, the minimum wage was raised to JPY 958 from JPY 932 per hour on 1 October 2017. The average figure of minimum wages for each prefecture has also been raised to JPY 848 from JPY 823 per hour.