National

Japan's Cabinet adopts bills to ban harassment and promote women's advancement

Kyodo, Staff Report

The Cabinet approved Friday a series of legal revisions banning any form of workplace harassment and obligating companies to prevent abuses of power or bullying.

The package of bills, also aimed at promoting the advancement of working women at smaller firms, will take effect in stages from fiscal 2020 at the earliest if passed by the Diet during the current session.

Under the bills, harassment by those taking advantage of their more senior positions at the workplace is specified as a prohibited act. But the legislation does not set punitive measures to be taken against violators.

The government will also set guidelines that give specific examples of abuse of power after many companies said it is difficult to distinguish between harassment and coaching by bosses.

The new regulation will prohibit disadvantageous treatment of workers who report they are the target of sexual harassment. In addition, firms whose employees sexually harass someone at another company are required to make sufficient efforts to cooperate with that company when it investigates the matter.

To promote women’s social advancement, the government will oblige small and midsize companies, which employ 101 to 300 workers, to set numerical goals for promoting women to senior posts. It has already imposed such rules for bigger companies.

Large firms will be required to disclose information such as the percentage of female executives on their staff as well as how many female or male workers have taken child care leave. The government will make public the names of companies defying the rule.

A survey conducted in 2016 by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on 10,000 workers and 4,587 companies with at least 30 employees showed that about 1 in 3 workers has experienced harassment by bosses over the three years, up from 1 in 4 in the previous poll in 2012.

However, about 41 percent of those harassed did not take action, with the majority saying that even if they did, they thought nothing would be done about the problem. Some also refrained from taking action due to fears that it would damage their next job performance evaluation.

Although there has been an increasing awareness of power harassment over the past few years, nearly half of the companies, or 47.4 percent, had not taken preventive measures.

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