Employers should be aware of a number of recent amendments to equal opportunity laws in Japan, as well as new laws to take effect in the new financial year.

From July 1, 2014, the Amendment of the Ordinance for Enforcement of the Act on the Securing, Etc. of Equal Opportunity and Treatment of Men and Women in Employment will take effect. This Amendment will expand the concept of impermissible discrimination, and also make changes to the current guidelines regarding sexual harassment. Before the Amendment, having requirement at recruitment or hiring of being able to relocate for employees in main career track without rational reason is prohibited as indirect discrimination. After the Amendment, having requirement at recruitment, hiring and "promotion" of being able to relocate "for all employees" without rational reason will also be deemed as indirect discrimination.

Further, new sexual harassment guideline proposes that the employer establishes measures to treat properly the victim employee of the harassment, such as providing consulting service by supervisor or occupational health staff and/or mediation by independent institution.

This follows a number of other implementations to equal opportunity laws, such as establishment of a new definition of "power harassment" in January 2012. Although there have been no laws or regulations in Japan which clearly defined "power harassment", following the round-table conference of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in January 2012, the following were categorized as examples of "power harassment":

  • physical offense;
  • mental offense;
  • isolation;
  • excessive requests;
  • insufficient or too little job assignments; and
  • privacy infringement.

These changes were followed more recently by an Amendment of the Act on Stabilization of Employment of Elderly Persons, which came into effect on April 1, 2013. This amendment prescribes legal obligations of employers to take measures to secure employment for elderly employees who desire to remain employed up until the age of 65. The amendments also abolished a scheme which set criteria allowing employers to exclude employees from the coverage of the continued employment system.