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Article | Global News Briefs

Japan: Childcare leave entitlement for fathers announced

By Kenji Mitsuhashi | February 17, 2022

Japan expands parental leave to four weeks for men to encourage them to take time off and adds flexibility to help new mothers stay in the workforce.
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Employer Action Code: Act

Amendments to the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law will make parental leave entitlements more flexible for employees, with the aims of increasing their use by men and encouraging new mothers to remain in the workforce. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW), about half of female workers quit working for reasons directly related to childbirth and childcare. Based on 2020 MHLW data, while over 80% of women take parental leave at some point, only about 13% of men do (though this is substantially higher than the 7% take-up rate reported for 2019 and 3% in 2016). The government’s target is to increase the proportion of men who take such leave to 30% by 2025.

Key details

From an employment perspective, the following are noteworthy developments:

  • Effective October 1, 2022, male employees will be entitled to four weeks’ leave, in one or two installments, within eight weeks after birth (Childcare at Birth Leave). Benefits will be payable by social security at the same rate as maternity leave (67% of covered pay). This new Childcare at Birth Leave is in addition to the existing government-paid childcare leave entitlements for both parents, which may also now be taken in one or two separate installments (previously only one). The application period for childcare leave benefits will be shortened to two weeks (currently one month). In addition, if provided by a labor-management agreement, employees may work during leave by individual agreement with their employer, with leave benefits reduced accordingly. It’s expected that regulations will limit such working time to half of regular working days and hours.
  • Effective April 1, 2022, the existing requirement that fixed-term staff have one year of service with their current employer in order be eligible for childcare and family care leave will be abolished; however, the service requirement may be retained by labor-management agreement. Also from this date, employers must implement measures (e.g., communication, training) to encourage employees to apply for and take childcare leave, individually inform an employee who has notified the employer of a pregnancy or birth regarding their specific childcare leave entitlements, and confirm the employee’s intention to take childcare leave.
  • Effective April 1, 2023, companies with 1,000 or more employees will be required to publicly disclose annually the rate at which their staff take childcare leave.

Employer implications

Attitudes about childcare leave in Japan might be characterized as “old-fashioned,” as evidenced by the low use of such leave by fathers and company policies that often assume only female employees take childcare leave. Public opinion on the matter has been evolving, and the shift in male employees’ opinions and usage of parental leave has arguably been accelerated by changing work practices and the use of remote working in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Retaining employees who are new mothers may, however, continue to be challenged by the limited availability of daycare, particularly in large cities. Employers should review their existing leave policies and internal communications to ensure compliance with the new requirements. Among companies surveyed by WTW, over three-quarters provide supplemental paid paternity leave, but the entitlement is typically modest (three days at median).

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