The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about changes to laws and regulations surrounding workplace harassment in Japan.
Question: How will legal revisions prevent workplace harassment?
Answer: For the first time, employers including companies will be required to take measures to prevent workplace harassment. A set of relevant legal revisions were approved at an April 25 House of Representatives plenary session. The package of bills is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session.
Power harassment is defined as infliction of physical and psychological forms of pain by those in higher positions, and employers are required to take preventative measures under the Act on Comprehensive Promotion of Labor Measures and Stabilization of Employment of Employees and Enrichment of Their Working Lives, Etc., which determines work-style reform ideals.
Q: What is specifically required of companies?
A: Employers will need to determine rules on ways to deal with power harassment and establish a framework to provide consultations for victimized employees. Companies will be given administrative guidance and corrective recommendations by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, if their measures are inadequate.
Q: What about sexual and maternity harassment?
A: Companies are already required to adopt measures against sexual and maternity harassment under the Act on Securing, Etc. of Equal Opportunity and Treatment between Men and Women in Employment and the Act on Childcare Leave, Caregiver Leave, and Other Measures for the Welfare of Workers Caring for Children or Other Family Members, respectively -- which will be further strengthened. For example, unfavorable treatment of employees will be banned, such as dismissing those who consulted employers about being subjected to sexual and maternity harassment.
Q: Is it enough to save victims of harassment?
A: There are also issues including the fact Japan lacks rules to regulate acts of harassment itself. Furthermore, critics point out that measures to protect freelancers, students looking for jobs and other people from harassment are inadequate.
Q: Are there countries with stricter laws and regulations on harassment?
A: According to International Labor Organization (ILO) research, 60 countries regulate workplace harassment by laws and other rules, which do not include Japan. The ILO is expected to adopt a treaty prohibiting harassment within this year, the first of its kind. We hope Japan will also advance effective measures to tackle harassment.
(Japanese original by Satoko Nakagawa, Integrated Digital News Center)