An overview of Japanese employment law

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Employees in Japan enjoy significant protection under Japanese employment law and through well-established court precedents. Guidelines and notices issued by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) are also employee friendly. In addition, cultural norms and societal expectations such as the traditional concept of ‘lifetime employment’ play important roles in the employer/employee relationship.

The employment offer and work rules -

Employers must provide employees with certain terms of employment in writing. Japanese employment contracts are short and simple, and usually supplemented by the work rules. There is no requirement that the contract be in Japanese.

Employers with 10 or more employees must create work rules and file them with the Labour Standards Inspection Office. The work rules are an important part of the employment contract and must stipulate certain terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, working hours and leave, termination and discipline. Work rules must be submitted to a representative of the majority of employees (or a majority union if one exists) for comment prior to filing. If there is any discrepancy between the work rules and the employment contract, the provision that is most favourable to the employee takes priority.

Originally published in BRIEFING January/February 2014.

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