Reader AH wrote to Lifelines about difficulties he is dealing with at work:
I’m currently employed with a private school in Kyushu, and a few months ago I started to get a lot of stress in the school due to being overburdened with work. I then went to the doctor about my high blood pressure and stress, he advised me to take some time off, which I did. (At the time I had a medical note from the doctor.)
I was then told by the school that they would not renew my contract, and now the school is making my day-to-day work environment very bad. I’m working with a teacher, who is creating a lot of mental stress for me, and I think I’m getting an ulcer. Can I apply for paid medical leave for the remainder of my contract?
Not every company affords sick leave to its employees, as it is not mandatory under Japanese labor law. Whether your company has a sick leave program or not — and whether the leave is paid — depends on individual employment contracts, office regulations and other factors specific to the company.
On the other hand, general paid leave is mandatory under Article 39 of the Labor Standards Act, which grants “annual paid leave of 10 working days, either consecutively or divided, to workers who have been employed continuously for six months from the day of their being hired and who have reported to work on at least 80 percent of the total working days.” The same article also lays out the number of days you can add to that total of 10 depending on various factors.
If you do have the right to paid leave, there should be no problem applying for it if you are sick. Although companies may ask you to, you are not required to give a reason for taking your paid leave.
If you are unable to continue working because of your health problem, and if the problem has been officially recognized as work-related, then you are eligible for payment from the government-run workers’ compensation insurance, which covers around 80 percent of your loss of salary while you are out of action. All employers must have this insurance for their employees, regardless of the type of employment contract or nationality of employees. Even if your employer does not pay any of your premiums — which is the case only in certain cases in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors — your damage can still be covered by the insurance. The insurance applies not only to physical injuries but also mental problems in certain cases, although the latter can be more difficult to get recognized than physical injury cases.
Also, if your employer is responsible for causing your problem, you can seek compensation from them as well.
The refusal to renew your employment contract is also a concern. In certain conditions, not renewing a fixed-term employment contract is treated the same as dismissal, meaning employers have to satisfy certain criteria for the nonrenewal to be legally valid.
Article 19 of the Labor Contract Act provides that, in such cases as the contract has been repeatedly renewed in the past, if the refusal “lacks objectively reasonable grounds and is not found to be appropriate in general societal terms,” the contract should be renewed with the same conditions as the prior contract.
Your health should be your prime concern, but considering the predicament you have found yourself in, getting more specific legal advice may also be advisable.
Kosuke Oie is an attorney with the Foreign nationals and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving foreigners in the Tokyo area (www.t-pblo.jp/fiss; 03-6809-6200). FISS lawyers address readers’ queries once a month. Your questions and other comments: email@example.com