Parental leave is essential to promoting family values and work-life balance, and Japan is no exception. In Japan, parental leave is governed by the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law, introduced in 1991, to promote the birth rate and gender equality. This law allows employees to take leave from work to care for their children or family members in need.
In Japan, parents are entitled to a maximum of one year of parental leave. There are maternity and paternity leaves a couple of weeks before and after the birth. After the maternity and paternity periods end, parents can take childcare leave until their child is one year old.
Maternity leave is when a new mother takes off from work to give birth to her child, recover from childbirth, and care for her newborn. An employer typically grants this leave as a form of job protection. It is meant to give new mothers the necessary time to bond with and care for their new child without worrying about job security or income.
Expecting mothers in Japan can take maternity leave 6 weeks before the estimated due date until 8 weeks after giving birth. Getting back to work earlier (around 6 weeks postnatal) with the doctor’s approval is possible. After the maternity leave period ends, female employees can get childcare leave until the day before the child turns 1 year old.
During this leave, the employees will get approximately ⅔ of their base salary, typically paid by social insurance. You can apply for maternity leave allowance through this insurance system. As the maternity allowance is not considered income, the employees will be exempted from income tax and labor insurance. However, some companies may continue to pay their employees, even though not as much as the usual salary. If this happens, income tax and labor insurance will apply.
The requirement to take maternity leave:
- Employees have to work for a company for at least one year
- Employees must provide their employers with a medical certificate that certifies their pregnancy and expected due date
- Employees must notify their employer in writing at least two weeks in advance of their intended leave start date
Paternity Leave（パパ休暇 papa kyūka）
The Japanese government encourages paternity leave as part of its efforts to address the country’s low birth rate and to promote gender equality. Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and encouraging fathers to take paternity leave is a way to promote an equal division of childcare responsibilities between men and women, which can, in turn, help to increase women’s participation in the workforce.
The length of paternity or childcare leave varies depending on the company and the individual’s employment contract. Under the papa kyūka system, male employees can take up to 8 weeks leave following the child’s birth. After the postnatal period ends, they are entitled to childcare leave until the child reaches the age of one, and this can be taken in one continuous block or multiple periods of leave.
The requirements to take paternity leave:
- Employees have to work for a company for at least one year
- Employees must provide their employers with the birth certificate
Childcare Leave（育児休業 ikuji kyūgyō）
Both male and female employees are eligible for childcare leave until the day before their child’s first birthday. The childcare leave is applicable for biological and adoptive children. The rules of childcare leave are similar to maternity and paternity leave.
If both parents are working, the Dad and Mom Parental Leave Plus (パパ・ママ育休プラス papa・mama ikukyū purasu) system allows both parents to take the childcare leave together. This system also allows fathers to take leave until the child is 1 year and 2 months old if they apply after the mothers take leave. In special cases where both working parents can’t find a daycare facility after turning 1 year old, they can apply for extended childcare leave until the child turns 2 years old.
Childcare Leave Allowance
Both female and male employees are eligible for childcare leave allowance during childcare leave. Each employee will receive 67% of their normal base salary for the first 6 months and 50% for the rest of the leave. The compensation is covered by labor insurance, and the employee won’t be charged income tax because it is not income.
Moreover, if they enrolled in Unemployment Insurance（雇用保険 koyō hoken）for at least 12 months in the past 2 years, they will be exempted from health insurance during childcare leave while still able to use the health insurance card. They will also be exempted from pension insurance, but the period of childcare leave will still be counted in the pension system.
Parental Leave in Practice
The Japanese government has implemented several policies regarding parental leave to promote work-life balance and gender equality in households. Recently, the government revised the law regarding paternity leave to encourage more men to be actively involved in child care. However, in practice, many companies in Japan offer much shorter periods of paternity leave. The length of paternity leave may depend on factors such as the length of service with the company, the company’s internal policies, and the size of the company. Generally, paternity leave in Japan typically ranges from a few days to two weeks.
A father taking care of his child
Moreover, many fathers are reluctant to take advantage of this benefit due to cultural and societal pressure to prioritize their work commitments over their family. Taking leave is often seen as a sign of weakness or a lack of commitment to work, which can be detrimental to a father’s career advancement. The view of mothers as primary caregivers and not fathers is still prominent in Japan.
In conclusion, parental leave is an important benefit for new parents in Japan, and the government’s efforts to ensure the family’s welfare are commendable. Mothers can get up to 2 years’ leave with a lot of financial aid. Fathers can also get up to 14 months of parental leave.
Despite government efforts, however, the cultural and societal norms surrounding work and family continue to pose significant barriers to parental leave in Japan. Many parents still feel pressure to prioritize their work over their family, which can have negative consequences for their physical and mental well-being and their relationships with their children.
If you are soon-to-be parents in Japan, discuss with your company to know their policy regarding parental leave as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for leave because it is your right as an employee.