How Your Company Is Cheating You Out Of Paid Working Hours

Aug 19, 2016



There is a part in the 1942 Leigh Brackett story “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon” in which a character states: “Witchcraft to the ignorant; Simple science to the learned.”

The ability to turn your hard work into company profits without giving any of that money to you may seem like modern sorcery, but don’t be fooled – such power is the work of careful deception and omissions of truth, rather than any supernatural forces at work.

In order to cut through the masquerade and reach the truth, though, let’s look at a Joytalk employment contract:

2. Working hours:
The working days and working hours shall be as follows:
Monday through Friday 8:30am – 16:15pm (actual working time is 29.5 hours per week)

Joytalk state that the working hours are 8:30am until 4:15pm, Monday through Friday.

Simple math reveals that such hours result in a working week of 38 hours and 45 minutes. Allowing for an hour of unpaid lunch per day, those hours drop to 33 hours and 45 minutes per week.

You might notice that 33 hours and 45 minutes is roughly four hours fewer than the “actual working time” of “29.5 hours per week” that Joytalk state.

Where have those missing hours gone?



Of course, Joytalk are hardly alone in practising such sorcery. Here’s the process that Heart Corporation use to turn your work into their money:

Article 15. Working Hours
Working hours are basically Monday to Friday, between 8:00 and 16:00. There is a maximum of 35 periods per week with an average of 7 periods taught per day (50 minutes per period with break time taken between the periods). The stated working hours apply to all of the days.

In Heart’s case, the working hours are 8:00am until 4:00pm, Monday to Friday.

Adding those hours up, we arrive at a 40 hour working week. Subtracting an hour of unpaid lunch from that results in a 35 hour working week.

While it isn’t explicitly stated, Heart Corporation also adheres to the “29.5 hours per week” limit of working time, which is strange because 35 hours is five and a half hours over that barrier.

However, Heart’s contract also states the following: “50 minutes per period with break time taken between the periods.”

50 minutes multiplied by six periods a day adds up to 5 hours per day; 5 hours per day multiplied by 5 days equals 25 hours a week.

Behold! Heart Corporation has turned a 35 hour working week into a 25 hour working week! How miraculous!

This once again begs the question: where have those missing hours gone?



In fantasy tales, a Chronomancer is an individual who has the ability to manipulate time for their own advantage. They are different from Time Travellers in that, instead of moving through history, a Chronomancer is able to alter the very flow of time itself via supernatural divinations and otherworldly expertise.

Could it be that this is the secret behind the a dispatch company’s ability to transmute a 30+ hour working week into a 25 hour working week? Is this how they’re able to cause the hours that you’ve been working to simply cease to be?

Unfortunately, the answer to the question is somewhat mundane, and can be found in the passage that we quoted from the Heart Corporation contract.

Specifically, this part:

“50 minutes per period with break time taken between the periods.”

Did you notice the “break time taken between the periods” part? That’s how they do it. That’s where your missing hours have gone.



You might have innocently assumed that the “working hours” specified in your contract are just that – the hours that you will be working. Until now, you might have believed that your work day begins at 8:30am and ends at whatever time you leave school.

The reality is that you’re being lied to by your company, only (in this case) it’s a lie of omission, rather than a corruption of the truth.

The fact of the matter is this:

Unlike a direct hire position, in which you will often be paid for all the time between you arriving at and eventually leaving your place of work, dispatch companies use an exploitative split-shift system to cut and trim and shave your hours down and down until they’re able to fudge the numbers enough so that they can claim that your ACTUAL number of working hours are far below the hours that you’ve actually worked.

So, instead of your day looking like “8:30am -> 12:30pm, 1:15pm -> 3:30pm”, your day is really more like “8:45am -> 9:35am, 9:45am -> 10:35am, 10:45am -> 11:35am, 11:45am -> 12:35pm, 1:30pm -> 2:20pm, 2:30pm -> 3:30pm”.

That time before first period? That was expected by “Japanese culture”, but not paid for. All of that time between lessons? Well, that was your “free time” when you weren’t working. That time after 3:20pm? That was volunteer time.

The reason for this is to convince you (and themselves, and anyone who happens to be looking too closely) that you work less than the mythical “30 hour working week” limit that they claim you need to exceed in order to qualify for shakai hoken (Employee Health and Pension Insurance; EHPI) enrolment.

If they can cook the numbers enough to bring your “on paper” hours below that “30 hour” mark, then they can get away with shirking their legal obligation to enrol you (and everyone else) into the shakai hoken system, and just keep the money they would have had to otherwise contribute to your health care and future for themselves.

This is how they convert “lead into gold”: they turn your hard work into around 30,000 yen per month per ALT and just keep that money for themselves.

Yes, as usual, it all leads back to shakai hoken.

(Further reading: “Berlitz Teacher Wins Court Case Against Japan Pension Service / A Brief History Of The 29.5 Hour Rule”)



The problem with claiming that time before school, time before lessons, and time after school is “unpaid free-time” is that Japanese law is pretty clear about what is considered work, and what is not considered work.

In a nutshell, if you go to your place of work and do work of any kind, that “work” is actually considered “work”. It’s not rocket-science.

Were you moving to a different classroom between lessons? That’s work. Were you printing anything between lessons? That’s work. Were you carrying a textbook or other materials from one place to another? That’s work.

When you arrived at school in the morning, did you sit at your desk? That’s work. Did you look at your schedule for the day? That’s work. Did you make notes or plan a lesson? You guessed it, that’s work!

The concept of “work you do at work is work” is not a difficult one to follow, but dispatch companies would have you believe that the work you do isn’t actually work at all. That was free-time, they protest!

To make such a claim is as absurd as it sounds. If those ten-minutes between lessons (often less, as classes rarely end exactly on time) were your free-time, you would be free to leave the school or otherwise do anything you want.

However, as usual, companies want to have their cake and eat it.

It’s your free-time, they argue, but you’re not allowed to leave school. It’s free time, they assert, but you have to do what we tell you. It’s free-time, they demand, but you still have to follow our rules.

If you work at a school in which your company has “scheduled” you to eat lunch with students during your “free-time”, then the issue (and the absurdity) is only compounded.

The thing is, this isn’t just our opinion or our interpretation of the law; this is something that the General Union proved as a matter of legal fact in the Tokyo District Court.



On March 20th, 2015, the General Union won a lengthy battle against the Japanese Government and the Japanese Pension Service.

The crux of the battle was to prove that the Government (and its proxies) was (and is) being complacent in ignoring the fact that companies across Japan are purposefully breaking shakai hoken law (and spreading lies to justify it) in order to make a profit at the expense of their employees.

During the course of accomplishing this victory, the General Union proved a number of points:

* That the “29.5 hour rule” is a lie to avoid shakai hoken obligations.
* That schools deliberately ordered long hours of unpaid work.
* That the company involved began to take action to further avoid the law once the General Union became involved.
* That the District Court acknowledged the working week was 35-40 hours, even if the contract states otherwise.
* That the National Government avoids its responsibility by blaming the victim.
* That exceptions from shakai hoken are limited by the law (and that working “fewer than 30 hours” was not one of them).
* That there is no rule that says a person has to work more than a certain number of hours to qualify for shakai hoken.

We arrived at this victory via a very simple premise: that work was work, and companies label work as “free time” to avoid shakai hoken obligations.

To quote from the official abstract that we posted:

“Interac, entrusted by Tokai City with Assistant English Teaching work, signed an employment contract with the plaintiff and assigned him to work at Kagiyaminami Elementary School. This labor contract fixed the hours of work at 29.5 hours perweek: Monday through Friday, from 8 A.M. Until 5 P.M. excepting lunchtime and breaks, for a total of 5.9 hours per day. However, the hours actually worked by the plaintiff based on this labor contract were longer than this.”

If you want to read more about the details and the verdict of this case, you can do so here: Shakai Hoken Ruling (PDF)



So, there you have it.

The ability for your employer to turn your working hours into unpaid “free-time” isn’t witchcraft, sorcery, or any other form of supernatural power – it’s just good old fashioned theft.

If you work for a dispatch company (or any company) and there is an instance of the infamous “29.5 hour rule” on your contract, or if your employer claims that certain hours spent at work aren’t actually working hours, then there’s a good chance that you’re also falling victim to this kind of exploitation.

Work is work, and you deserve to be paid for the time you spend working for a company’s benefit.

You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your time and effort so that your employer can profit even more at your expense.

Now that you’re aware of how you’re being cheated our of money, health care, and pension, how do you feel about being used in such a way?

If the answer is that you’re not happy about it, maybe it’s time to do something about it.

Maybe it’s time to join a union.