If you’re an expectant father in Japan, you may be considering taking paternity leave. Compared to many places in the world, Japan’s policy is generous, on paper at least: you’re legally entitled to take up to a year off, and be compensated during that time.
However, you’ll likely face some obstacles too. The system itself is complicated and has had a number of changes in recent years, meaning that there’s little English information available. Furthermore, while the situation is improving, recent data showed that only 17% of fathers in Japan took the leave, and so you may find your company doesn’t have a culture where paternity leave is encouraged.
This article will give you an outline of the system, explaining your options, and what benefits they give. It will also highlight the recent changes to the system
Japan’s paternity leave system
In Japan, paternity leave falls into two main kinds of leave: Childcare at Birth Leave (出生時育児休業) and Childcare Leave (育児休業).
Availability of paternity leave in Japan
Paternity leave is only available to people who are considered employed, so it is not available to directors of companies or sole proprietors. In addition to company employees, it is also available to limited term contract workers, provided their contract will not be terminated before the child turns 8 months old (Childcare at Birth Leave) or 18 months old (Childcare Leave).
Furthermore, in the case of Childcare Leave, those who work part-time are excluded if they have not worked at least 11 days per month, for at least 12 of the past 24 months.
Additionally, if a company has a labor-management agreement, they can exclude some people who would normally be eligible for paternity leave, including
- those who have worked for less than a year for the company
- those who work less than 2 days per week
- (in the case of Childcare Leave) those who are scheduled to end their employment or contract within one year after they apply for childcare leave
Childcare Leave is also available to fathers who adopt a child under one year old, starting from the adoption date.
Paternity leave benefits in Japan
With Childcare at Birth Leave, fathers receive 67% of their salary as a benefit with the maximum of 15,190 yen per day.
With Childcare Leave, they get 67% of the salary for the first 180 days of the leave with an upper limit of 305,319 yen per month. After the first 180 days, 50% will be covered with a limit of 227,850 yen per month.
While this amount may look like a small amount, it’s worth noting this payment is not taxable. You don’t need to pay income tax or residence tax, nor do you need to pay for social insurance such as employment insurance, health insurance and pension insurance while on childcare leave. So this means your take home pay should be similar to your regular salary, unless you have significantly higher than average compensation.
Duration of paternity leave in Japan
With Childcare at Birth Leave, new fathers are eligible to take 4 weeks of leave in the 8 weeks after childbirth.
Childcare Leave is available until the day before the child’s first birthday. If you go back to work before the birthday, you’ll get paid until the day before going back to work.
Additionally, if both parents are working, the Dad and Mom Childcare Leave Plus (パパ・ママ育休プラス) system will allow one parent to continue their leave until their child is 14 months, albeit for a maximum of 12 months in total, but only if they start their leave after the other parent and apply before the child turns 1 year old.
Furthermore, if you can’t find a daycare for the child by their first birthday, childcare leave can be extended to a maximum of 24 months, during which the benefit will continue to be paid.
Which system of paternity leave should you use?
Fathers who plan to take an extended paternity leave will typically take the first four weeks using the Childcare at Birth Leave system, and then the remainder using the Childcare Leave system. This will maximize the time they receive 67% of their salary (4 weeks + 180 days).
Once fathers return to work, they are also entitled to take nursing leave (子の看護休暇). This is a day (or time) you can take off work, for the purpose of taking your child (who must be under the age of 7) to the doctor or to receive vaccinations. This leave is regulated by the Child Care and Family Care Leave Act. A parent can take up to 5 days off work per child every year regardless of the employer’s rules.
However, since the Act doesn’t mention if it’s paid or unpaid leave, you don’t get any financial support for this short leave unless your employer offers it individually. If the employer offers paid leave for this, the government gives subsidies to the company. Though it may sound great, the employer needs to submit detailed and complicated paperwork to the government in order to receive a 1,000 yen subsidy per hour of nursing leave.
Paternity leave in practice
According to a report by the Japanese government, only 17.13% of fathers took paternity leave in 2022, compared to 80.2% of women.
Parental Leave by Gender in Japan
The main reasons why new fathers didn’t take paternity leave were that their company was unprepared to offer them the leave (23.4%), and they felt the company didn’t want them to take the leave (21.8%). 22.6% were concerned that their income would decrease.
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for parents to experience harassment related to pregnancy, childbirth and childcare leave at work. A 2020 report indicated 26% of parents had experienced harassment related to pregnancy, childbirth and childcare leave.
Examples of this harassment are things like new mothers being asked to take pay cuts or even to quit work when they request childcare leave from their company, or new fathers being prevented from taking childcare leave or receiving a demotion after returning from leave.
This sort of harassment violates the regulations around parental leave, but Japanese companies tend to get away with it with little repercussions, as at worst they’ll be subject to a fine of up to only ¥200,000.
This situation is one that the Japanese government has been looking to change, and in recent years they’ve introduced a number of policies designed to improve the situation, with a target that 30% of fathers in Japan take paternity leave by 2025.
In order to improve this situation, the Child Care and Family Care Leave Act was updated twice in 2022.
The first new regulation came into force in April 2022 and required companies to give enough information to all new mothers and fathers about parental leave, and encourage them to take the leave. This was to address that many fathers were never given any information about parental leave, including its advantages and financial support (64.7% weren’t given information according to a 2018 study).
The second regulation was introduced in October 2022, granting new fathers Childcare at Birth Leave (出生時育児休業). Prior to that, only mothers could take it.
Then in April 2023 a new regulation came into effect. Companies with more than 1,000 employees are required to publish an annual report with the percentage of employees who took paternity leave and maternity leave. It is difficult to fully quantify the satisfaction of new parents due to these new regulations, but I hope these governmental moves will help new parents balance their work and family life.
So while paternity leave may have a ways to go before being commonly embraced in Japan, it is heading in the right direction. This shifting attitude not only provides fathers the opportunity to bond with their young children, but also will help mitigate the burden of many working mothers in Japan who struggle to continue their career after childbirth.