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2020/04/15 Update

COVID-19 and employment rights as a foreigner in Japan

Job cuts in Japan due to coronavirus

Following the state-of-emergency declaration by the Japanese government last week, many companies in Tokyo, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo etc., have been put on hold and as a consequence, hitting their employees hard. Numerous sectors have already seen widespread layoffs, with some warning thousands more jobs could be cut. Foreign workforce is not an exception. Therefore, knowing your rights in this unprecedented situation, at least until the end of the state-of-emergency period, is vital.

Know your rights when you are requested to take days off.

Good news is, specific regulations with the aim of protecting foreign employees due to the redundancies have been issued by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare lately. Here is the summary in English.

Even when the new coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused a decrease in business for the company, foreign workers are not allowed to be treated less favourably than Japanese workers just because they are foreigners.

1. Companies must pay a leave allowance to Japanese as well as foreign workers when they are forced to take days off from work by the company.
2. When you take days off from work because your children's schools are closed, you can use paid vacation days just like Japanese workers.
3. The subsidy the national government pays companies to protect worker employment can be used for Japanese as well as foreign workers.
4. Companies cannot freely fire you at will. When a company wants to fire a foreign worker, the same rules as Japanese workers must be followed.

When is the dismissal legal?

Above is the guidance for foreign workers when they were requested by employers to take days off as a measure to tackle the pandemic. How about knowing in which cases are companies allowed to dismiss an employee? Here is another summary for you.

There is considerable precedent in case law to the effect that it is necessary to meet the following four criteria when making employees redundant as part of company restructuring (i.e., dismissal of employees in order to reduce staff numbers as a result of deteriorating business performance) in order for the redundancies to be deemed reasonable.
1. Necessity (人員整理の必要性): The company must prove that its business circumstances are such that redundancies are unavoidable and necessary.
2. Effort to avoid redundancy (解雇回避努力義務の履行): The company must prove that it has made serious managerial efforts to avoid redundancies such as by re-assigning staff and advertising for voluntary redundancies.
3. Reasonable selection (被解雇者選定の合理性): The company must prove that the standards by which it selected those to be made redundant are reasonable, and that redundancies were carried out fairly.
4. Reasonable process (手続の妥当性): The company must prove that it conducted sufficient consultations with workers and labour unions.

In summary

Working abroad can be a great opportunity to experience a different way of life and culture, but is no easy task as well. There are loads of things you will struggle with and it is important to know your rights as an employee and when an employer oversteps their legal boundaries.

Sources: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, JERTRO