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Dentsu lowers overtime work limit after employee's suicide

Following the suicide of an employee attributed to overwork, advertising giant Dentsu Inc. on Oct. 18 announced that the maximum number of monthly overtime hours employees can work will be reduced to 65.

The previous maximum set under a labor-management agreement was 70. However, in the case of Matsuri Takahashi, a new Dentsu employee who committed suicide at age 24, it has emerged that this limit was not being followed.

"We want to pay attention to whether this serves as an effective reform measure," a representative of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare commented.

A public relations official for the company said that Dentsu President Tadashi Ishii announced a reform of labor management in a message sent to all employees on Oct. 17. In addition to lowering the regular monthly limit, the limit for extending overtime hours under a special clause during busy periods will be reduced from 50 to 30 hours a month, the company said.

The move will be formally decided on Nov. 1 after the company agrees on the measure with the labor union, but managers have been asked to implement the measure as far as is possible this month. The company also took note of the fact that Takahashi, who entered Dentsu in the spring, died on Dec. 25 after working for long hours during a busy period in November and December, and decided that the special clause would not be applied to this year's new employees in November and December, meaning their maximum overtime hours cannot exceed 65 hours per month.

To discourage employees from working overtime, the company also decided to turn out all the lights at the company's head and branch offices at 10 p.m.

A lawyer for Takahashi's family said that Dentsu had ordered employees including Takahashi not to log more than 70 hours of overtime per month. Takahashi subsequently underreported her work hours, logging 69.9 hours of overtime in October last year, and 69.5 hours the following month.

The Tokyo Labor Bureau conducted a spot inspection of company subsidiary Dentsu East Japan Inc. on the afternoon of Oct. 18 under the Labor Standards Act. It was the fifth on-site inspection of a company subsidiary since Oct. 14, when labor bureaus in various regions began inspections of Dentsu subsidiaries.

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