• Kyodo

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Ad giant Dentsu Inc. said Thursday it will trim working hours by 20 percent per person compared with fiscal 2014 in an attempt to improve labor conditions after an employee’s 2015 suicide was declared a case of karoshi, or death by overwork.

Dentsu’s goal is to bring working hours down to 1,800 per employee by fiscal 2019 ending in March 2020. In fiscal 2014, working hours reached a high of 2,252 at the ad giant.

Dentsu President Toshihiro Yamamoto said at a news conference the same day that he intends to appear in court for Dentsu’s trial over suspected labor violations. The company was summarily indicted earlier this month and is expected to pay a fine.

Under its labor reforms, the company aims to expand its workforce by more than 250 people and to allow telecommuting. It is also considering having employees take three days off each week.

“We want to create a new Dentsu through reforms. It’s not easy, but we’re determined to certainly make (such reforms) work,” Yamamoto said.

Dentsu also said it intends to alter its wage system amid concerns that shortening working hours will effectively turn into wage cuts, and pay employees back wages retroactively.

To boost efficiency, Dentsu will set up satellite offices in 18 places across the country starting in September and continue its selective ban introduced last October on employees staying in the office from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The step is part of reforms triggered by the suicide of Matsuri Takahashi, a new recruit who jumped to her death from a Dentsu dormitory on Christmas Day in 2015 after becoming depressed from excessive working hours.

Dentsu allegedly made Takahashi, 24, and three other employees work illegally long hours from October 2015 that exceeded the monthly maximum of 50 hours allowed under a labor-management agreement, according to the indictment.

Her suicide and its official designation as a case overwork sparked a nationwide debate on excessive overtime, a chronic problem at many Japanese firms.

Takahashi’s death took place less than a year after she entered Dentsu in April 2015. The karoshi case also affected government efforts to ameliorate working conditions nationwide.

Takahashi’s mother, Yukimi, released a statement Thursday urging the company to ensure its reform plans will be put into action.

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