National

Nonregular workers deserve equivalent bonuses and benefits, too: work reform guideline draft

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Nonregular workers should be given bonuses equivalent to what regular employees doing comparable jobs receive, according to a draft guideline compiled as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to establish equal pay for equal work.

The guideline — to be submitted Tuesday to a panel on workplace reform headed by Abe — forbids discriminatory treatment based on employment status. Regardless of employment type, in principle, employers must pay a comparable basic salary and bonus to workers with the same years of service, ability and performance, the draft says.

The government is scheduled to begin work on revising related laws in January and bills could be submitted to the Diet as early as next fall. The guideline, which is not legally binding, would take effect if the bills are passed.

The draft also says nonregular workers, such as contract-based employees and part-timers, should be given the same treatment as regular employees regarding commuting allowances and overtime pay.

This also applies to benefits including congratulatory and condolence leave, training, and the use of office canteens and locker rooms, the draft says.

The equal pay for equal work concept is the centerpiece of the Abe administration’s work-style reform plan, which also seeks to curb the long-held corporate practice of abnormally long working hours.

In Japan, where a system of lifetime employment with seniority-based salaries dominates, wide gaps often exist between the earnings of regular and nonregular workers. Since a majority of the latter are female, the practice is widely viewed as contributing to a gender-based wage gap.

According to a welfare ministry survey in 2011, more than 80 percent of companies paid bonuses to regular employees but only 37 percent of part-time workers received one.

The survey also found that 85.6 percent of offices paid a commuting allowance to regular employees but only 65.1 percent did so for part-timers.

As for celebratory or condolence leave, 82.7 percent of regular workers had the right, versus 42.2 percent for part-timers.

The panel on work-style reforms is scheduled to compile concrete action plans by the end of March.

Information from Kyodo added

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