Dentsu was warned about overtime four months before employee’s suicide

Kyodo

Just four months before the December work-related suicide of a young employee last year, labor authorities had instructed advertising giant Dentsu Inc. to correct its staff’s unlawfully long working hours, company officials said Wednesday.

The finding shows that despite the warning, Dentsu failed to take effective measures to redress working conditions that led Matsuri Takahashi, 24, to work over 100 hours a month in overtime in the fall of 2015.

Takahashi killed herself on Dec. 25 of that year, and her death was recognized last month by the Tokyo Labor Bureau’s Mita office as having been work-related.

Suspecting chronic problems surrounding employees working long hours at Dentsu, the labor bureau conducted on-site inspections at the firm’s headquarters, its three branches and five subsidiaries. The bureau will further investigate the company’s labor practices by questioning company officials.

Japan’s Labor Standards Act stipulates working hours must not, in principle, exceed 40 hours per week or eight hours per day. If employees are to work longer, a labor-management agreement must be concluded beforehand.

Dentsu said it was warned by the bureau’s Mita office on Aug. 14 last year about its employees working hours exceeding the limit set under a labor-management agreement.

Takahashi joined Dentsu in April 2015 and was assigned to a job related to internet advertising. Her working hours increased sharply after completing her probationary period — to some 105 hours a month in overtime compared with 40 hours while on probation.

The labor bureau judged that she likely sank into a depression in early November, according to a lawyer for her family. Takahashi jumped to her death from the upper floor of a corporate dormitory the following month.

The entry-level employee left a number of comments on social media referring to her harsh working conditions and fatigue, including one stating that her “body and heart are totally drained.”

Since receiving the warning from the labor bureau in August last year, Dentsu said it had encouraged employees not to work too much by launching a “No Overtime Day” campaign.

The firm also said it plans to take further steps following the revelations behind Takahashi’s death, such as by lowering the current upper limits for working hours by five hours a month from November.