Overtime work, wage, forced return, etc….
Q&A for foreign trainees and technical interns
Q1. Are there any stipulations in the trainee regulations, or in the contract with an accepting organization, that may restrict my freedom?
A. The government of Japan prohibits contracts that may restrict trainees' and interns' freedom. In addition, Japanese laws take precedence over any contract. Please keep in mind the following:
A passport is owned by the person to whom it is issued, and should be kept only by that person. An accepting organization or company holding passports to prevent trainees and interns absconding is considered to be inappropriate?even if a written agreement says it is to prevent loss?not to mention holding a passport without the owner’s consent. Deducting money (for installment savings or unidentified management fees) from a trainee’s allowance or intern’s wage is not allowed. Setting curfews, restricting the use of telephones and prohibiting contact with human rights organizations/labor unions are all illegal, and violations of human rights.
Before signing a contract or any other agreement, trainees and interns should:
1. receive adequate explanation in their native language so they fully understand the contents;
2. be given a copy of the documents;
3. talk to a Japanese LMS, etc. that supports foreign workers if there are any questions.
Q2. After becoming a technical intern, what is deducted from my wages?
Q3. Are an intern’s wages less than the wages paid to Japanese workers?
A. Japanese labor laws apply to technical interns, guaranteeing equal rights with Japanese workers.
Generally, tax, social insurance, company housing fees and utilities are deducted from the wages. Please check there are no inappropriate deductions.
□ Income tax □ Health insurance □Welfare pension insurance
□Labor insurance □Company housing fees (By the accepting company)
□Utilities (By the accepting company)
The accepting company should never deduct management costs, such as company housing fees or equipment fees, from a trainees’ allowance because the first-year allowance itself is to cover the trainee’s actual living expenses. According to Japan’s Ministry of Justice, the contract between interns and companies should stipulate that technical interns receive payment equivalent to that of Japanese workers in the same workplace.
Q4. I have not been paid extra for working overtime and on holidays. What should I do?
A. Technical interns can claim overtime payments.
Working hours exceeding 40 hours in a week are considered to be overtime, payable 25% extra for weekdays, 50% extra for night work between 10pm to 5am, and 35% extra for working on holidays. Unpaid overtime payment in the past can be claimed. Pay rolls, timesheets, working calendars, and your diary are important evidence upon claiming.
(Example) Company X made trainees work overtime for nearly 400 hours without any compensation. The trainees joined the labor union, after which they filed a claim for unpaid wages. As a result, company X made a settlement with all the trainees in the union that was equivalent to the overtime payment to which they were previously entitled. Trainees' working calendars played an important role in leading to that result.
Trainees are not allowed to work overtime in the first place. If you are a trainee, don't accept a request to work overtime.
Q5. I do not know how many paid holidays I am entitled to.
A. Technical interns can take paid holidays.
Ten days of paid holidays are given half a year after becoming an intern. A year later, an additional 11 days of paid holidays are given. The accepting organization and company cannot impose on interns when and how to take these paid holidays.
Q6. I was injured at work and could not work for several days because I had to go the hospital. Will my wages/allowance be reduced because of that?
A. Private insurance such as comprehensive insurance for foreign trainees and comprehensive insurance for technical interns should be applied. In addition, workers' accident compensation insurance should be paid for technical interns.
Technical interns can claim workers' accident compensation, which is paid for by insurance if approved. The compensation covers: medical expenses, compensation for loss of earnings caused by time off work, disability benefit (such as mutilation of a finger) and bereavement compensation, etc.. The workers' accident compensation can be applied to a trainee if his/her work is actual labor, not training. The compensation must be claimed within a certain period: medical expenses and compensation for loss of earnings caused by time off work need to be claimed within two years after the right to claim becomes effective; disability benefit and bereavement compensation must be claimed within 5 years after the right to claim becomes effective. Be sure to obtain a medical certificate to smooth the claiming process.
Q7. The company laid me off because of a recession. In that case, am I required to return to home country immediately?
Q8. My company went bankrupt and my return to home country was arranged by them. Should I return home?
A. A unilateral, un-notified dismissal is not allowed under Japanese labor laws.
When a company goes bankrupt, its workers can transfer to another company. A dismissal that lacks reasonable, objective grounds or is not considered to be appropriate in general societal terms is invalid. A dismissal that is attributed to an economic recession must meet the following four conditions: (1) necessity of dismissal, (2) efforts to avoid the dismissal, (3) rational selection of persons to dismiss, and (4) consultation with workers. If such conditions were not met, the dismissal is invalid.
A dismissal without advance notice or compensation violates Japanese labor laws. An employer must provide at least 30 days advance notice or pay the average wages for a period of not less than 30 days.
(Example) When a factory Y closed down, interns established a union, transferring to another factory with the same conditions as before. Joining a union is a right guaranteed for interns by the law. Moreover, negotiating with the union may lead to better working conditions in addition to a fair transfer.
Q9. I want to speak out about problems in my company; however, I am afraid that the company will force me to return to my home country.
A. The chances of forced return are lower when you negotiate with others, rather than negotiating alone.
Gathering clear evidence and asking other people, including friends or representative of a labor union/NGO, to be observers help protect you against the forced return.