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Japan Post tells staff to use paid leave to care for kids amid school closures

In this Sept. 30, 2019 file photo, a Japan Post Group company sign is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

TOKYO -- Japan Post Holdings Co. revealed on March 12 that it has instructed employees who must stay home to care for their children during nationwide school closures to use their paid leave before tapping a government subsidy system.

The Japanese government advised all schools across the country to close from March 2 until spring vacation to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections.

If Japan Post employees took leave using the subsidy system, the firm "may not be able to get its work done," a company representative said.

The government has created a system to subsidize companies up to 8,330 yen per person per day if their employees take special leave -- apart from their regular paid leave -- to take care of their children enrolled at temporarily shuttered schools. However, Japan Post Holdings notified its employees on March 4 that they should use special leave only after using up their annual paid leave. The written notice called on workers "not to abuse" the subsidy system.

Ryuichi Anze, deputy head of the firm's personnel department, told reporters on March 12, "There are offices where they can't get their work done without their staff as they adopt a labor-intensive system. If the use of special leave is taken for granted, our universal service (throughout the country) could be disrupted."

Anze noted that the government was not against workers taking paid holiday to care for their children, suggesting that the firm's policy does not run counter to the government's program. "We have also given consideration to striking a balance with employees without children," he added.

Under the firm's policy, however, staff may feel nervous about using up their paid leave, and become reluctant even to take their regular holidays. As the government subsidy program was introduced to compensate for adverse effects from the school closures, which were spearheaded by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan Post Holdings' move to urge prudence in using the subsidy program may spur controversy.

(Japanese original by Akiko Kato, Business News Department)

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