• Kyodo

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The number of cases in which people sought advice from labor authorities over so-called maternity harassment in Japan reached a record 4,269 in fiscal 2015, up 19 percent from the previous year, a government tally showed.

The sharp rise indicates more female workers are now openly raising concerns with their companies, and that maternity harassment is being recognized as an issue that should be addressed, a labor ministry official said.

Under new criteria set by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry last year, a woman who has been unfairly treated by her company, such as being told to resign or demoted, within a year of her pregnancy or delivery is deemed to be subject to maternity harassment.

The number of inquiries made to prefectural labor bureaus has ranged between 3,200 and 3,600 annually in the five years through fiscal 2014. The ministry began keeping record of inquiries in fiscal 2010.

Of the 4,269 cases in fiscal 2015, 2,650 were related to unfair treatment as a result of marriage, pregnancy or delivery.

The remaining cases involved unjust treatment linked to child-care leave.

The number of cases in which the bureaus issued orders to companies to correct the situation rose to 84, compared with about 20 to 30 cases a year in the past.

Meanwhile, more men are seeking advice on taking child-care leave, with the number of such inquiries in fiscal 2015 doubling from a year earlier to 61.

The increase could be linked to “paternity harassment.”

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