National

Diet passes bill giving teachers more holiday but longer work hours during busy periods

JIJI

As part of work style reforms, the Diet enacted a bill Wednesday to introduce a new working-hour system that will enable public school teachers to take extended holidays.

The legislation to revise a special law on teacher salaries was adopted at a plenary meeting of the House of Councilors by a majority vote, with support mainly from the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling bloc. The bill cleared the House of Representatives last month.

Local governments will be allowed to manage teachers’ work hours on an annual basis under the new system, set to run from fiscal 2021.

The system is designed to enable teachers to take some five consecutive days off and add other days, such as Saturdays and Sundays, during school breaks in the summer so that they can have a longer holiday, in exchange for increasing regular work hours during busy periods such as when the school year begins.

There is strong opposition to the measure among teachers, with some arguing that they are “busy supervising student club activities and taking part in training sessions during summer breaks.” Others claim that the move is “highly likely (to) lead to an increase” in their workload.

Proponents of the system say that it will “help improve duties during summer breaks” and prompt “a review of work on a year-round basis.”

The education ministry plans to set conditions for allowing the introduction of the new working-hour system in an ordinance.

The ministry hopes to strictly limit use of the system, specifically permitting its introduction only at schools that adhere to guidelines on overtime limits and on student club activities, that will not burden teachers with additional work even after extra regular work hours are added in busy periods, and that aim to allow teachers to take extended holidays.

The revised law upgraded the guidelines on overtime limits, set at 45 hours per month and 360 hours per year, to rules set by the education minister, and made the rules legally binding.

To gauge the effects of the reforms, the ministry plans to conduct a survey on teachers’ working conditions in fiscal 2022.

Public school teachers are not paid overtime allowances but are instead given an amount equivalent to 4 percent of their salaries as “adjustment pay.” Critics say this system is one factor that leads to teachers working long hours.

During Diet debates on the bill, education minister Koichi Hagiuda said that the government will consider measures to drastically overhaul teachers’ work conditions based on the results of the 2022 survey, including another review of the special law on teachers’ salaries.