Apart from your regular holiday allowance, while they are not legally required to do so, most Japanese companies also give employees 'Compassionate Leave', meaning paid and unpaid leave for life events, celebratory or otherwise. Clearly many of the following events really are once-in-a-lifetime, and you seldom hear of a company trying to block them.
Celebratory events: Employees getting married typically receive 4-7 days paid leave. Most people I know take longer honeymoons than that, so any extra days off would be drawn from your regular paid leave allocation or be unpaid. Companies are not obliged to allow long honeymoons but many will accept up to 2-3 weeks. You may find though, that you will be asked to move the honeymoon to a more convenient time, unless you make the request well in advance (i.e., at least 3 months).
You will also receive 1-2 days paid leave if your child gets married, or when your spouse gives birth.
Mourning: Just as life begins, so it ends, and companies will normally provide 2-7 days paid leave for the death of a parent, foster parent, spouse, child or foster child. They will also provide 2-3 days paid leave for you to attend the funeral of co-habiting grandparent, cohabiting parent-in-law, or a consanguineous sibling.
If you are non-Japanese, on hearing the above you may think, "Wait a minute, my family is overseas, there is no way I can get back within few days." Of course most companies wrote their rules years ago when foreign employees were rare. So if you want more than the allowed paid leave, you either have to take some of those extra paid holidays I suggested in my last column that you save up, or you try for compassionate unpaid leave. Again, there are not many companies that wouldn't give you up to 3 weeks off work, unpaid, for deaths and marriages. They know that to enforce their rules so rigidly for such events would be tantamount to recruitment suicide if word got out.
Childbirth: Childbirth is considered as being within the control of the employee, so companies are not obligated to pay for such events, but they are required to keep the job open. By law, companies have to give 6 weeks leave before the birth and 8 weeks after birth. Some companies encourage their new moms to take at least 3 months' childcare leave, since this is the youngest age that mothers can put their babies into day care. The preferred time off for new moms who can afford it (i.e., they have a spouse), is up to one year.
I'll just note that in addition to these continuous periods of leave, female employees who are having pre and post-birth medical health issues can also request unpaid leave for check-ups, doctor-mandated rest periods, and so on.
Beyond the most common requests, companies (of 10 or more people) are supposed to define in their work rules, the terms for an extended leave of absence. Typical reasons for wanting an extended leave of absence include:
- If you are sick because of injuries or illness sustained outside of work (there are different rules for work-related problems, which I’ll cover later)
- If you need to take leave for 2 weeks or more due to family issues or other personal reasons
- If your public duties interfere with your job role
- If you are doing extended education (e.g., an MBA overseas)
In such circumstances, the typical allowances of time off for illness and injury are usually predicated on how long you've worked at the firm. Allowances differ for each company.
Where the reason for taking leave is more of personal choice, the same formulae may be applied, or the company may alter the periods according to its decision. It's important to know that apart from illnesses and injuries sustained at work, if you don't come back to your job within the allowance periods defined by the company, and if the company won't give you additional time, then you may be considered as having resigned from the job. The best thing is to get things down on paper and signed by your boss or HR if you need to take an extended leave of absence.