Resigning Versus Getting Fired

Resigning Versus Getting Fired

Some things are seldom talked about in the official press, but I'm a strong believer in information wanting to be free, so here goes. Today we discuss the thorny topic of how to end your employment with a company.

One of the really good things about Japanese bureaucracy is that even as a foreigner, once you are legally working here, in the eyes of the law you are considered equal when it comes to benefits and the right to work. Therefore, if a company fires you, providing you have met the requirements, you can start collecting unemployment benefits from the same time that a Japanese person would. You have to apply to receive unemployment insurance and then endure a waiting period of 7 days before you are entitled to the benefit, for which you are paid for a month later. The level of these benefits depends on the average salary you drew over the previous 6 months prior to losing your job. The rule of thumb is that you will receive between 50-80% of your average salary for at least 6 months, depending on the actual level of your salary as those with lower salaries are entitled to a higher percentage.

Beyond 6 months unemployment, Japanese citizens and spouses of Japanese can continue to receive alternative benefits, as can the foreign worker. However, at some point the foreign worker MUST find a new job, or they may not be able to get the renewal of their visa - which usually has as one of its attached conditions that you have a long-term job (or jobs) that pays at least JPY200,000 a month.

In contrast to being fired, a person who resigns of their own accord must wait 3 months before applying for the dole, and there are stiffer tests surrounding whether they have been looking for a new job. This system is in place to prevent people abusing the right to draw an unemployment check by simply resigning from a job every few months. So clearly the financial temptation for someone contemplating leaving their company is to try and get fired.

But getting fired can backfire on you. For a start, in most Japanese companies in particular, you will have to have done something pretty heinous to get the axe. This means that you will have to commit some act that would be morally and possibly legally wrong - so you may leave yourself open to legal proceedings. Furthermore, most companies, long before they fire you, will try other methods to get you to leave the company of your own free will. This is even more probable these days, where companies get hiring subsidies for new employees based on not having fired someone in the last 6 months.

Some of the techniques can be quite emotionally unpleasant and are intended to wear you down until you to resign (these battles can go on for years, I've seen it happen). For example, a company may cite economic conditions to force you into a new job category with lower salary, spread rumors about your personal life or financial condition, make you sit on your own away from your colleagues, or even make you move to another city, etc. Yes, some of these activities are illegal - I'm just giving you a heads up on what can happen out there.

So given that you run the risk of becoming a corporate pariah and that the fact you got fired will be a blot on your employment record when you apply for the next job (yes, employers talk to each other - it's a small town), then you might want to consider a more graceful departure. Try negotiating with your employer- you might be surprised.

If you have been with your company for some time, especially if it's a larger company, check the Employment Rules that are supposed to be posted in each place of work. There may be a retirement allowance for each year worked (usually one month allowance per year) that you can pick up to ease you over any period of unemployment that follows.

The last word is this: if you can choose your resignation date, make sure you get your next job BEFORE handing in your notice. Human nature being what it is, you are much more attractive to future employers while you're still working for someone else. It's the "grass is greener on the other side" syndrome. I've seen some very talented people take a redundancy package and after a few months of being unemployed have found themselves becoming "untouchables" in the market place.

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