Take a Vacation or Else! New Law Forces Japanese Employees to Take Paid Leave

It’s a well known fact that Japan is one of the most industrious nations on the face of the Earth, but the Land of the Rising Sun might be a little bit too industrious. Fewer than half of all Japanese workers take vacations, and they even have a word for being worked to death: “karoshi.” Just last November, a Japanese restaurant was ordered to pay $500,000 in damages after overworking an employee to the point of suicide.

Now, the country is trying to pass a new law that ensuring that workers use their vacation time, thus reducing the amount of people who are being overworked, and creating a better work-life balance.

Currently, Japanese workers have the right to use 10 to 20 vacation days per year. The specific amount of time off that they receive is largely dependent upon the time they spend with the company. However, the current law forces them to file for it. Many workers won’t even ask for their vacation, and with the way the law is now, there won’t be any breach of law on the part of the employer. According to the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training survey in 2011, 60% of people said taking a vacation “would inconvenience their colleagues,” while more than 50% also said that they simply had too much work to take a break.

Now, if this bill passes into law, employers will have to be responsible for setting their employees’ vacation dates. The wishes of each employee will be taken into consideration, of course, and not chosen at the employer’s discretion. How many obligatory days of paid leave employees would be expected to take has yet to be determined.

The law is intended to encourage employees to use their right for paid leave, and will be submitted to the Japanese parliament on January 26.

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