The July 24th (2016) edition of the Japan Times (“Questions About Paid Leave“) provided a very good overview of the law covering paid leave (yūkyū kyūka). However, when taking this article into consideration, we must compare what the law guarantees versus the reality of your working environment.
First, as a union, we wouldn’t recommend that you just “take this leave” if you’re in a workplace that is hostile to this practice, as doing so is a good way to make your employer find various “other things” to harass you about as a way of getting back at you.
In our experience, the best way to secure the right to use your legally granted paid holidays is to have a union in your workplace.
Yes, paid leave is the law – but you have very little protection if things don’t go right and your employer decides to punish you for flexing your rights.
Second, another way to take paid leave if you are in a hostile environment is to save it up until your contract is about to expire, and then use it at the end of your contract if you’re not planning to renew.
Based on the number of days you have, just give notice that you will taking these days at the end. If the employer refuses, just take the days off anyway.
If the employer doesn’t pay you for them, or punishes you financially in other ways, you can deal with it as unpaid wages through the Labour Standards Office or your union. We usually find that the Labour Standards Office isn’t bad when dealing with the issue of unpaid wages. There’s no guarantee that things will completely work in your favor, but using holidays before leaving a company often beats being harassed by an employer while still working there.
SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES
Next, we get into the issue of paid leave for our many members working in universities and non-eikaiwa schools.
To be clear, paid leave also applies to these workers, both full- and part-time – but it’s important to remember that we have two types of members in these workplaces.
The first type are those part-timers that are paid only for their working time (i.e. not paid during summer holidays, winter holidays, or non-teaching days). In this case, the advice given above is what we would say applies to you.
The situation with the second type – those teachers who are both full- and part-time who have lots of paid non-teaching days already – is a little trickier.
Again, just to be clear, paid leave also applies to these workers, but answering the question of how to best use these days is somewhat difficult.
“Why?”, you ask?
There is a danger here that too much use of paid leave during teaching days may lead to a situation where an employer just decides that (for example) instead of having time off in the summer, you will attend work instead and just stare at the wall for a few weeks.
Can they do this? We would argue that an employer cannot just change ‘traditional’ working practices, but it would be hard to fight back against this – especially in a workplace with no union.
So, how can you deal with this issue if you are in this group of workers?
We would suggest that you take no unilateral action without your co-workers on your side. You do not want to end up in a situation in which you try to take a stance without the support of your co-workers, especially when such action may endanger their summer and winter holidays (etc) as well as your own.
Together with your co-workers and the union, we can work out a plan of action and decide how to deal with it as a unified group.
IDEALISM VS PRAGMATISM
Our long history as a union has shown us that there is, unfortunately, a difference between the law as it is written, and the law as it is applied – especially since the Labour Standards Office is not very good at protecting you if you make a claim while still working for a company.
We believe that the first step in protecting your rights, even those granted by law, is to talk to union, talk to your coworkers, and make your demands together.
The old adage of “United We Stand; Divided We Fall” may sound trite, but experience has shown that the phrase is more of a truism than people may think.