Overtime - Part II
The official definition of "too much" overtime, is probably the measure for making Karoshi (death through overwork) claims in the Japanese courts, which recently have pegged the basis for a claim at around 100 hours overtime in the month preceding a death of an otherwise healthy person, or 80 hours a month for 2-6 months preceding the person's death. So if you're being asked to work this level of overtime, then be careful - people die from that.
As we mentioned in the previous section of this article, employers do have the right to require you to work overtime in times of financial adversity and other special circumstances. Another situation where you may have to work overtime is when you have agreed to a specific contract with the employer that allows it. There are 3 levels of worker protection in Japan: the Labor Law, which as we mentioned has a variety of let-out clauses for employers, the Company Work Rules, and your personal Work Contract. If either the Work Rules or your Contract allow for you to work required overtime, then the employer is within their rights to ask you to do so - be sure to read your contracts properly.
Of course if your contract specifies different conditions, or if you are a contractor or part-timer, then these rates may not apply to you, but under normal conditions, overtime is paid as follows:
･ When you work beyond the legal working hours
25% over your normal hourly pay rate
･ When you work on a holiday or scheduled rest day (a legal rest day
must be provided once a week or four times in four weeks)
35% over your normal hourly pay rate
What if you are being unfairly taken advantage of and you want to take action? Well, first of all, ask yourself if you really want the job, because I can almost guarantee that you'll be made "redundant". Yes, it's not fair, but most companies are under financial pressure and unlikely to want to have someone set a precedent, which will significantly drive up their costs.
Second, be sure that you are not considered a manager or salaried worker - which people on individual contracts often are. In such cases, companies can argue that as a manager you are expected to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. The law will still be on your side, but winning a claim will be a lot harder.
Third, the body that is meant to protect you,
the Labor Standards Office is being flooded
with similar and much worse claims of abuse, so the amount of effort and mind-share that you are likely to get from them will be reduced. Most likely you will be asked by the authorities to try to negotiate a settlement, and if that doesn't succeed then you may be able to get them in to arbitrate.
There is a Labor Standards Office in every city and they will normally provide you with at least an interpreter, or a local union. Be sure to keep records of your approved or mandated overtime and any correspondence with the company. Also, if you've been having health problems due to your work schedule, keep a record of doctor's visits, etc., especially if the amount of overtime is starting to approach 8 hours a day. You must have been seen to want to negotiate with the company in good faith before going to the authorities - so make sure you do this as Japanese put a lot of importance on being seen to do the right thing.
Terrie Lloyd is the founder of DaiJob, Inc. He also writes a weekly newsletter for entrepreneurs and business people about business and political opportunities in Japan. You can find the newsletter at www.terrie.com.
For further contact with Terrie, email him at email@example.com.