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Employers Associations and Trade Unions in Japan

1. Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Organizations

Japanese unions have traditionally represented regular (open end, full time) workers, and more common at traditional and larger companies. The percentage of workers who traditionally have not been represented by unions, such as part-time workers, is slightly on the rise, although not in numbers to cover the overall decline.

2. Rights and Importance of Trade Unions

The rights of unions are set out under the Labor Union Act, and the Constitution. Unions have a right to organize, collective bargain (which can lead to a collective agreement), and act collectively such as to strike. Actions by the employer to interfere with union activity by treating employees who join a union unfavorably is prohibited as “unfair labor practice”. The employer has an obligation to engage in collective bargaining requests in good faith, but there is no obligation to agree to the union’s request.

3. Types of Representation

The main type of employee representation envisioned under law is the system of having the employees democratically choose a single representative amongst themselves to:

  • execute a labor management agreement which is requisite in certain situations, such as having employees work overtime or on a rest day (holiday), or implementing special work hour schemes such as flex-hour schemes, or
  • provide opinion (which could be an opposing opinion – the requirement for the employer is to obtain the opinion) for any change to the work rules

4. Number of Representatives

Please see above – one representative.

5. Appointment of Representatives

Please see above – the employees will need to choose their representative amongst themselves in a democratic way.

6. Tasks and Obligations of Representatives

The task for the employee representative is to consider the employer’s proposal for the relevant matter, and either provide their opinion, or decide whether they will agree to the proposal or not.

7. Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies

Works councils do not exist in Japan.

Health Safety – there are requirements depending on the size of the workforce in each workplace.

For more information, please contact L&E Global.