Death and Birth

Death and Birth

No one likes to talk about death, but every so often, it confronts us, either personally and directly, or indirectly in having to make wills, take out insurance, etc. And because no one really talks about it, there is very little information on the subject as it pertains to your job.

First off, the labor law guarantees paid leave if someone close to you dies. If the person is a parent, spouse or child, the bereavement leave allowance is 10 days for each occurrence. If the person is a grandparent, sibling, or other immediate relative, then the period allowed away from work is 5 days. Needless to say, these are just the days you get paid for, and I don't know many employers that won't give longer unpaid periods if you ask for it. Typical durations seem to be 2-3 times the number of days mentioned above.

What if you die on the job? Japanese courts consider "on the job" as being in the office, traveling to or from a client's place of work and the period during your commute. Most companies have labor insurance to cover death of employees, so the government pays out on their behalf the average wage for 1,000 days. If your company doesn't have labor insurance, then it may have to foot the bill itself. Either way, 3 year's salary doesn't go far - especially if you also have a mortgage to pay - so if you want your loved ones to have something to live on when you go, be sure to get a local life insurance policy.

If the person passing away is a Japanese spouse and you're a foreigner, even though you will surely be suffering from the loss, you need to maintain presence of mind to go to Immigration to talk about your spouse visa. If you have children and they have Japanese nationality, or you employ a significant number of Japanese nationals, then you will have no problems being allowed to stay in Japan, but if not, you may need to seek out a sponsor quickly.

Usually if a foreigner dies in Japan, the family is contacted by either the police or the company and they come to Japan to tidy up personal affairs and collect the body. I have seen instances however, where only distant relatives survived the person and the police expected the company to take responsibility in cleaning up the apartment and dispatching the deceased's belongings. This all flows back to the fact that for a lot of Japanese, the company is the "family".

Births are a much more pleasant topic. At present, only women can get maternity leave, of which 14 weeks are paid at 60% of the usual salary, so long as they have been paying social insurance for more than 12 months. Most companies will also give 3-5 days unpaid leave to fathers as well. Additional maternity leave (3-6 months is typical) is unpaid, but requires the company to leave your job open until you return to work. If a company decides to let you go while you're on leave, they need to pay you a severance amount of one month, just as if they were letting you go under regular circumstances.

Although companies themselves don't pay anything for women giving birth, the government does - so long as social insurance or national health insurance has been paid for more than 12 months. The allowance is currently JPY300,000 per child, not an insignificant sum, and applies to foreign residents as well as Japanese.

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

For further contact with Terrie, email him at