Japanese employers to ensure workers use vacation

Companies are likely to be required to designate the period in which employees take annual paid leave in a proposed bill for revising the Labor Standards Law, it has been learned.

The proposed bill, which would ensure workers take paid leave, aims to prevent overwork and help employees realise a proper work-life balance.

The government plans to submit the bill to the ordinary Diet session that will convene on Jan 26.

Under the system of annual paid leave, between 10 days to 20 days per year are given to a worker who is employed continuously for over six months and reports for work for more than 80 per cent of the predetermined number of working days.

The amount of paid leave increases in accordance with the number of years of continuous employment. Part-time employees are also entitled to take paid leave if they meet requisites such as working on a five-day per week basis.

Although the current law stipulates that companies have to grant paid leave to employees, it is based on the assumption that employees designate and request the period for paid leave.

Without workers' requesting for paid leave, it is not currently seen as violating the law if companies do not grant paid leave, which then contributes to a low rate of paid leave taken.

Therefore, the government has decided to impose responsibility on companies for designating the period of paid leave taken by employees, thereby encouraging workers to take paid leave.

The bill covers all employees who meet requirements for annual paid leave.

The number of designated days is set to be discussed at a session meeting of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's advisory body on labour policies.

It is expected that companies will consider workers' wishes when companies designate the period of paid leave.

The percentage of paid leave taken in 2013 remained at 48.8 per cent, according to a survey by the labour ministry.

The government has set a target of raising the figure to 70 per cent by 2020.

To discover reasons behind workers not taking paid leave, the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training conducted a survey for regular workers in 2011.

About 60 per cent of respondents said taking time off would be an inconvenience to colleagues, and 52.7 per cent answered they had no time for days off due to a heavy workload, shedding light both on workers' consideration for their workplaces and the heavy workload.

In the proposal bill, for companies that will introduce a non-hourly wage system in which wages are paid based not on working time but on performance, the government will also take measures to secure employees' health such as setting a limit on office hours for those who work in such a system.