Maximize Your Time with Your Newborn: What You Need to Know About Childcare Leave in Japan

If you’re on employee health insurance and pension, you may already know that you (or your spouse, if you’re the husband) are entitled to maternity leave from your employer, which covers 60% of wages for 42 days prior to and 56 days following childbirth*. However, two months may be too short for a mother to recover, and paternity leave is not an option under employee health insurance – and this is where childcare leave comes in.

What is Childcare Leave?

A benefit provided under Employment Insurance, Childcare Leave (育児休業) is a benefit paid every two months for a maximum of one year, or up to two years in exceptional circumstances where enrollment in day care is not possible. It also applies in cases of adoption of children under one year of age. 

The amount is determined based on the worker’s salary. While on childcare leave, the worker is exempt from paying insurance premiums and pension. 

Childcare leave may be taken by the father and mother concurrently, and does not need to be taken all at once; a father may opt to take two months of leave immediately after childbirth, and then take a second leave later. 

How do I know I am eligible?

You are eligible under the following conditions:

▢ During the last two years, you worked at least 12 months where you:

  • received 11 days of basic wage payment per month, OR
  • worked 80 or more hours per month

▢ Your child is under one year old at the time of application

▢ (Only for limited-term contract workers) It is unclear whether your contract term expires the day before the child’s 18-month birthday.

How do I apply?

Applications may be made through the employer, and should be made in writing at least one month before the planned date of leave. A sample application from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Wellness can be found here. 

You may also apply yourself through Hello Work; however, the branch you apply through must be the same branch that your workplace is registered with. Please be aware that if you are working with a nationwide company or corporation, the appropriate Hello Work office may not be in the same area as the workplace itself.

How are benefits calculated?

Benefits are calculated based on the average daily rate of six months wages immediately preceding the leave. From this, your 30-day salary is determined, and you are paid 67% of this in your first six months of Childcare Leave, and 50% in the second six months.

Example 1: You have been working a salaried full-time position earning 295,000 yen per month. Your child was born on March 3, and you choose to take Childcare Leave from the date of birth.

March 3 to September 2: 197,650 per month 

September 3 to March 2: 147,500 yen per month 

Example 2: You have been working a part-time position earning 2000 yen per hour, with an irregular schedule. Your child was born on March 3, and you choose to take Childcare Leave from the date of birth. Your calculated average monthly wage is 180,667 yen per month.

March 3 to September 2: 121,046 yen per month

September 3 to March 2: 90,333 yen per month 

In summary

Childcare Leave is a vital benefit that supports working parents in Japan, providing much-needed time off to care for newborns or adopted children. By understanding the eligibility criteria, application process, and calculation of benefits outlined in this article, workers can make informed decisions about accessing this important benefit. As you navigate your journey into parenthood, remember that you are not alone. Seek assistance from your employer, Hello Work, or request a consultation to ensure you receive the support and benefits you are entitled to.

*NOTE: Maternity leave is not a benefit of National Health Insurance. However, the lump sum allowance (出産育児一時金) intended to cover the cost of medical care (500,000 yen at time of publication) is paid under every insurance policy. Please be aware that the benefit is lower in cases of stillbirth, miscarriage, or premature birth between 12 and 22 weeks, or in the case that the hospital is not enrolled in the Obstetric Compensation System (産科医療補償制度).