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カテゴリーのアイコン Work Life in Japan
Nenkyu, Yukyu, and Public Holidays: Exploring Japan's Leave Policies and the Shifting Landscape of Employee Well-Being
Jan 19, 2024
4 min read
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Top Image Credit: Canva.com

In Japan, the concept of annual paid leave is an integral part of the employment system, and companies provide their employees with a certain number of paid vacation days each year, which averages around 11 days (in the first year of employment).

Nenkyu, Yukyu, and Public Holidays

nenkyuu todoke Credit: Canva.com

In Japanese, Annual Paid Leave is called “Nenkyu” or “Yukyu”. The Labour Standards Law article 39 stipulates the minimum annual leave at 10 days per year after an employee has completed six months of continuous service with the same employer. After that initial six-month period, employees are entitled to take their accrued paid leave. The number of additional days increases with each year of service, reaching a maximum of 20-22 days after six years of continuous employment, depending on the company.

The specific details, such as the number of days granted and the rules surrounding their usage, can vary between companies and are often outlined in employment contracts or company policies.

Annual leave is indeed quite low in Japan if compared to European standards, for example, but Japan has a high amount of fixed national public holidays throughout the year, specifically 16 days.

In Japan, other than these 16 days, numerous Japanese companies strategically designate holidays for the Bon Festival in August and the year-end and New Year holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays enabling employees to enjoy up to 10 consecutive days off. This systematic approach enhances the potential for longer, uninterrupted breaks, maximizing the benefits of both designated and annual paid holidays for employees.

Do Employees Manage to Take Paid Leave?

In essence, annual paid leave is intended for workers to be able to refresh while being completely free of any work-related thoughts.

However, the paid leave utilization rate historically and culturally has always been quite low in Japan due to various concerns such as causing trouble to colleagues, being too busy and not wanting to have to catch up on a big amount of work afterward, or simply because superiors seem reluctant to approve paid leave.

The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic also played a role, with slightly lower utilization rates over the past 2 to 3 years.

Consequently, 2019 saw the revision of the Labor Standards Law that mandates that companies must ensure workers (including managers and supervisors) with 10 or more days of annual paid leave per year take a minimum of 5 days annually, with the employer determining the specific time for the leave.

According to the 2022 survey conducted by a Japanese HR consulting company, results reveal an average of 10.3 paid workdays, with a noteworthy acquisition rate of 58.3%, indicating that nearly 60% of employees enjoyed paid workdays. Compared to the past two decades, where the acquisition rate hovered around 50%, the 58.3% rate in 2022 stands as the highest ever recorded.

Other Types of Leave Guaranteed by the Labour Standards Law

days off calendar Credit: Canva.com

Sick leave: generally speaking, employees do not have a right to sick leave in Japan. When an employee gets sick, they are expected to use their paid holidays and take time off work.

Parental leave and child care: Maternity leave must be ensured by the company for 14 weeks and child-care leave up to 52 weeks.

Bereavement leave: must be provided to full-time employees between and can last 3 and 5 days, depending on the relation to the family member.

Marriage leave: 5 days

Holidays and Leave Policies in Japan

Japanese work culture historically placed a high value on dedication and long hours at the workplace. While there has been a growing recognition of the importance of work-life balance, some employees may still find it challenging to take the full allocated leave due to cultural expectations or workload.

The trend toward work style reform is prompting an increasing number of companies, with variations across industries, to expand the annual number of holidays.

However, altering the number of holidays poses challenges, requiring thoughtful consideration and strategic measures to maintain employee satisfaction while ensuring operational efficiency.

Companies aware of inadequate holiday offerings should prioritize rectifying the issue by aligning with industry standards and exploring ways to enhance holidays without compromising employee compensation.

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