Skip links

Essential Labour Rights You Need to Know

Do you want to work in Japan but afraid that you will be overworked?

Yes, indeed the terms of karoshi or working until death is awful. Most Japanese and of course, foreigners, scared whenever they hear these terms. Besides, the Japanese rigid and serious working attitudes make it seems difficult to get adapted to the Japanese working environment.

The first time I moved to Japan to live with my Japanese husband, I never thought about working full-time in Japan due to my fears.

What if I can’t get accustomed to their work cultures?

What if they force me to do overtime every day?

But then, I watched some news on television that said about the regulation of overtime work. After the suicide case of an overworked female worker at advertising firm Dentsu Inc, the Japanese government limits the working time for the workers who work in Japan.

To find out more details, I participated in The Seminar about Labour Rights for Foreign Workers in Japan that was held by the Japanese Labour Union

It was mind-blowing.

after I attended the seminar, I’m not afraid anymore to work full-time in Japan.

Below are the essential labour rights that you need to know if you consider working in Japan


The maximum working hours allowed by the Japanese Labour Standard is 40 hours over six days. If your employer insists that there should be any overtime on your workplace, they should make an agreement that must be signed by either a trade union representing over 50% of the workforce or a workers’ representative. Without this agreement, any forced overtime work, or even voluntary work, is not allowed.
Everyone who works more than 40 hours/week must be paid at a rate of 125% of their basic salary and all late-night shift work that has been done in between 10 pm and 5 am, even though it is less than 40 hours, must be paid at 135% of the basic salary. If you work on your designated non-working day you must be paid at the rate of 135% of your basic salary regardless of your weekly working hours. Furthermore, if you work over the number of hours stated in your contract, but less than 40 hours, you should be paid for this time (though not at 125%).

Labour Contract

Every Labour Contract should meet at least the minimum requirement of Labour Standard Law set by the Japanese Government. This is not only valid for Japanese but also for foreign workers who are working in Japan.

The maximum length of a labor contract is 3 years. Even though there is unlimited contact available in Japan, you should renew the contract at some points.

Things should be included in labor contract: length of the contract, wages, (methods for deciding on, the calculating and paying wages) type of the contracts (whether it is a renewable, a non-renewable, or a renewable based on performance contract) and set working hours.

If your contract and actual working conditions differ you may cancel your contract immediately.

Firing or Contract Non-Renewal by The Employer

It was stated on the Japanese Labour Standard that:

An employer can’t suddenly fire an employee without any prior notification. An employer must give 30 days notice or 30 days pay in place of notice.

Labour Standard Law: Article 19, 20

Even though you are still in the probation period, your employer can’t fire you without notice after you completed 14 days of your contract.
An employer should give proper reasons for contract non-renewal. Also, employers should give 30 days’ notice for non-renewal before the end of such a contract.
An employer can’t set a predetermined fine for the employee who is quitting during the contract.

Work Cultures

Tardiness / Lateness
If your company doesn’t have specific working rules about lateness, they may not be able to fine you for lateness. A fine is an amount subtracted from your pay over and above the deduction for the time you were late. So if you came to work 5 minutes late and your employer didn’t pay you for those 5 minutes, this would not be a fine.
However, if your company has properly registered working rules regarding lateness, they have the rights to fine you for your lateness. But please be aware that the fine for one instance of lateness cannot exceed half a day’s pay, and the total fines in a month cannot exceed 10% of your monthly salary.
The calculation for a half day’s pay is as follows:
Total Salary for the three months preceding the fine divided by the total number of days in the three months preceding the fine multiplied by 0.5

Break Time
Japanese Labour Standard state that break time which a company must give their employees is as below:
For 6 hours or more shift, you must be allowed a 45-minute break.
For a shift of 8 or more hours, you must be allowed a one-hour break.
The break time should be given at a reasonable time. For example: if you work from 9 am until 5 pm, the break time should be one hour between 11 am – 2 pm. It is prohibited if your employer gives you unreasonable time to take a break in the morning time (9 am – 11 am) or late afternoon before you finish your work (4 pm – 5 pm).

Wages / Salary
The salary must be paid at a predetermined time that is stated on your labour contract each month. You must inform the Labor Standard Office if your employer doesn’t pay your salary or they pay your salary later than the predetermined time.
Please be aware that your employer is still obligated to pay at least 60% of your wages even though they went bankrupt and close their enterprise or when they don’t allow you to work during your scheduled time.

No law that states about sick days and national holidays. However, there are some rules on how calculating allowable flexible paid holidays based on the number of years of service. Part-timers are also covered by this law and their paid holidays are based on the number of days worked per week and the length of service.
When you take time off you are paid the following for the day:
Full-time salaried employee: For the number of hours you would have normally worked.
Part-timers: based on either of the following formulas depending on which is higher:
(Last 3 months total wages/number of days you worked) x 0.6 = X yen
(Last 3 months total wages / 92 days) = X yen
The paid holidays owed to you by your company are separate from the set holidays offered by the company and are often paid for salaried workers and unpaid for hourly-paid workers. Below is the table for the allowable paid holidays that your company should give to you based on years worked and days worked per week. You can find this table on the Japanese Labour Union booklet.

Table 1: Allowable Paid Holidays

Hope you are now aware of the most essential labour rights in Japan, for more details you can visit Japan Labour Union website on
Thank you for reading!

These rules are also valid for any employers who want to recruit any foreign or Japanese workers to work at their company. Therefore, if you are the employer and now are considering to hire foreign workers to work at your company, you should be aware of these regulations.

Notes for the readers:
Please use this article only as a reference, not as a legal guidelines. Therefore, will take no responsibility or liability, so far as legally possible, for any consequences of your actions.

Japanese Labour Union Website
Labour Rights Education Seminar Booklet

Featured image:

This website uses cookies to improve your web experience.