Japanese office workers

Author: TalentHub

Paid and unpaid leave at Japanese companies—What are your options?

Do you know the proper way to take some time off from work? Here we will explain the different kinds of leave available to you.

Legally granted leave

First, let’s talk about the different kinds of legally granted leave. The following types have been designated by Japanese law.

  • Annual paid vacation
  • Childcare leave
  • Family care leave
  • Maternity leave
  • Menstrual leave

Let’s take a more detailed look at these below.

Annual paid vacation

As determined by Article 39 of the Labor Standards Act, all workers have the right to take paid time off. Employers are obligated to pay the employee’s full wages during that time.

In general, six months after an employee’s start date, they will be granted 10 days’ paid vacation.

Childcare leave

When necessary, employees are allowed to take time off for childcare purposes. Starting in 2002, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows that an employee is entitled to take time off to care for a child up to 1-year of age.

Both male and female parents are allowed to apply for childcare leave. In the past, Japanese men were not seen as taking an active part in child rearing, but recently this has been changing.

Family care leave

Employees needing time off to care for elderly or infirm parents, or other ill or injured family members, can apply for family care leave. This type of leave is granted by the Family Care Leave Act and can be taken as either full days or half days.

Maternity leave

This leave is granted to female employees experiencing pregnancy and childbirth. Maternity leave can be taken from 6 weeks before the expected due date to 8 weeks after childbirth.

Menstrual leave

This leave is available to female employees suffering from menstrual pain to the point that they are unable to work, and generally does not require a doctor’s note. At some companies, “menstrual leave” is referred to more euphemistically as “F leave.”


As far as the law is concerned, employers are obligated to provide salary only for annual paid vacation. For other kinds of leave, there are no regulations requiring the leave to be paid or unpaid, meaning that policies can vary widely from company to company.

Special types of leave

Now, let’s have a look at special types of leave. These are usually offered by companies as part of employee benefit plans.

  • Celebratory / Bereavement leave
  • Milestone leave
  • Birthday leave
  • Summer / Winter vacations

Let’s look at each one in more detail:

Celebratory / Bereavement leave

This leave is meant for those needing time off work for important life events, such as an employee’s own wedding or the death of a family member. This type of leave is not granted by law, and is at the discretion of the employer.

Milestone leave

The standards for this leave differ by employer, but this leave is normally granted to employees to recognize a milestone year in continuous service to the company.

Birthday leave

The Labor Standards Act does not designate this type of leave as paid vacation, so each company has its own policies regarding birthday leave. Employees can take their birthday off or sometimes a family member’s birthday.

Summer / Winter vacations

Companies may adjust work schedules to offer longer summer and winter vacations, even though there are no laws requiring it. Most companies adhere to the norm of giving a few days off in the summer, either specific days the company chooses or an allowance of days the employee can take when they choose. It is also common for companies to close around New Year’s Day to make an extended holiday.

Again, each company has different policies regarding whether to close the office or not, so you should check the job description and your contract for details. For companies offering summer and winter vacation, the holidays will not affect your salary unless you are paid hourly.

While many companies have established celebratory / bereavement leave and summer / winter vacations, other types of leave are relatively rare in Japan. Some interesting examples are volunteer, anniversary, pet death, and sporting days.

Taking leave requires advance approval

With all the many types of leave available, whichever one you take will need approval in advance from your company. When taking just 1 or 2 days off, it’s good to request a week in advance.

Foreign nationals returning to their home countries would most likely take a long vacation. Taking a lot of time off could affect the business and your coworkers who need to cover for you in your absence, so we recommend putting in your leave applications a couple months in advance, or as early as possible.

In summary

Japan has typically been known as a country with lots of overtime and little time off, but recently companies here have been catching up to those in other countries in terms of leave policies. Vacations are vital to refresh your mind and spirit. Please be sure to check your own company’s policies with your Human Resources / Personnel department, and have a nice break!



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