Suicide Prompts Japan’s Dentsu Inc. to Reduce Hours of Overtime

October 20, 20164:20 pm737 views

Following the suicide of a woman who worked excessive hours, more than standard at Japan’s biggest advertising agency Dentsu Inc. the company was forced to consider its overtime work policy and reduce the number of overtime hours from the current limit of 70hours per month to 65 hours only.

From 24 October, the company is also expected to turn all lights off by 10 pm. The overtime limit at Dentsu will come into effect from November.

The agency aims to foster a better working environment by reducing the maximum number of overtime hours staff can work in a month. A spokesperson of the company Shusaku Kannan, pointed out to Campaign Asia that Dentsu’s official working day is seven hours—one hour less than the limit set by Japan’s Labour Standards Act.

It was determined by the Tokyo’s Labour Standard Inspection Office that working for longer hours at the company pushed 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi to commit suicide after she suffered a mental breakdown. Takahashi worked more than 105 extra hours in a single month, the Asahi newspaper reported.

This decision by the Japanese advertising giant comes at a time, when the nation is considering improving its policies and working practices. A government-backed panel has already begun discussing issues ranging from excessive overtime, low salaries of part-time workers and a stagnant female workforce.

“Workplace reform isn’t just a societal issue, it’s an economic one as well,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Tokyo on Sept. 27 at the first panel meeting, Yahoo! Finance Singapore reports. “If we revise overtime rules, we will improve work life balance, making it easier for employees — including women and the elderly — to work.”

Nearly a quarter of companies in Japan report workers logging in more than 80 hours of overtime per month, according to the survey by Labour Ministry of more than 1,700 firms conducted last year.

About 21 percent employees worked more than 49 hours per week, compared to 16 percent in the US, 12.5 percent in the U.K and 32 percent in South Korea. The Ministry highlighted these findings in a paper on “karoshi,” or death from overwork.

Dentsu is the latest firm to join the list of 50 other companies restricting overtime, to include Daiwa Securities Group Inc. and Seven & I Holdings Co., who have signed a pact to end excessive work hours.

Yahoo Japan Corp. is considering implementation of a four-day working week, and beginning from October the company plans to cover commuting expenses of employees who travel by bullet train. The company will subsidize travel by up to 150,000 yen ($1,440) a month, Nikkei reports.

Tokyo’s new governor, Yuriko Koike, has also recently mandated that staff in government offices must go home by 8 p.m. This news is particularly encouraging in a national environment wherein long work hours and overtime has become a norm for the global workforce, often at the expense of employees’ physical and mental wellbeing.

At the same point in time reducing five hours from the monthly overtime limit does not make a huge difference, as you can still see many employees working till 10:00 on a regular basis. Does this still make a significant change? This measure will only be effective if it is rigorously enforced.

 

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