A non-Japanese worker — let’s call him T — wrote to Lifelines with some questions about the shakai hoken social insurance system. Here’s what he had to say:

I’m a foreigner working at a company in Tokyo.

I started working there full-time in February 2016. I was the first employee the company hired after it was established.

The company didn’t enroll us in the shakai hoken program. I didn’t ask them until recently, when I brought it up with my boss. He basically said he’d completely forgotten about it.

However, except myself and another person, all the other employees in the company have been enrolled.

My boss said the company should enroll everybody once the workforce reaches 10 employees, but I did some research and found that this is not the case and I should have been enrolled from the beginning. So I feel like I’m losing a lot of money by paying for my own insurance by myself.

I’m thinking about asking the company to pay me all that money it should have paid over the past two years. Is that a good idea, or is there a better way of going about this?

Shakai hoken (social insurance) comprises kenkō hoken (health insurance) and kōsei nenkin (welfare pension), and all full-time employees should be enrolled in the system, provided their employer is a company or an independent business proprietor (the latter having more than five employees). There are some excepted professions, such as agriculture, fishing, the restaurant and hotel industries and beauty salons, but as T’s employer is a company, it should have been contributing to his shakai hoken payments from the outset.

So should T ask the company directly for the money it should have been paying into the shakai system? This is a question he needs to decide himself based on the relationship he has with management.

However, if he does decide to go a different route, he could file a complaint with either the Health Insurance Association or the Pension Office. They may force the employer to make back-payments or just warn the company at first, depending on the case.

What are koyō hoken and rōsai-hoken?

As well as shakai hoken, employers are obliged to enroll all employees working more than 20 hours per week in koyō hoken (employment insurance), which enables workers to receive unemployment insurance in the event that they lose their job.

Rōsai hoken (workers’ compensation insurance) is similarly obligatory. Thanks to rōsai hoken, an employee who gets sick or injured during work time can be compensated for medical fees and lost wages.

Who pays your insurance fees?

With shakai hoken and koyō hoken, you and your employer split the monthly premiums 50-50. Normally, your half would be deducted from your salary. Your employer must pay 100 percent of your fee for rōsai hoken.

Can you sue for nonpayment of fees?

In some cases employees have sued their employers for not paying their share of the insurance fees. In the majority of cases, judges declared nonpayment to be illegal.

However, the prospects for winning compensation depend on the circumstances of the case. The judge in one instance, for example, denied compensation to the plaintiff because the worker could not produce proof they had been paying their own share of the fees into the pension system, regardless of the employer’s nonpayment. What’s more, the judge ruled, as the plaintiff was not yet 65, it wasn’t certain that they would fulfill the conditions to receive a pension anyway.

On the other hand, in another case, where the employee was over 65 and had paid all his pension and health insurance premiums by himself, the judge ordered his employer to pay compensation to make up for what it should have been paying all along.

As yet, there are no landmark legal precedents to point to on this issue. But needless to say, suing for compensation would be a complicated business only worth considering as a last resort.

Nahoko Amemiya is an attorney with the Foreign nationals and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving non-Japanese in the Tokyo area (03-5979-2880; www.t-pblo.jp/fiss) FISS lawyers address legal queries received by Lifelines. Send your questions and other comments to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp.

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