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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 June 20 - 26  > Major insurance company raises annual overtime cap to 540 hours
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2018 June 20 - 26 TOP3 [LABOR]

Major insurance company raises annual overtime cap to 540 hours

June 23, 2018

It has come to light that taking advantage of the government’s “work-style reform” proposal to set the maximum limit of overtime at the karoshi (death by overwork) line, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd. increased the upper annual limit on overtime by 190 hours to 540 hours.

At Mitsui Sumitomo, one of Japan’s leading insurance companies, under a labor-management agreement based on Article 36 of the Labor Standards Law (the so-called 36 agreement), the maximum number of overtime hours a year was 350 hours, and this agreement was applied to all employees with the exception of those in managerial positions.

In April, however, the 350-hour ceiling was raised to 540 hours. Explaining the reason for the revision, the insurance company referred to the fact that the government-introduced bill, which is under Diet discussion, seeks to raise the yearly overtime cap to 720 hours from the current 360 hours which is stipulated in the Labor Ministry’s notification. The insurance giant argued that it is necessary to consider revising the company’s 36 agreement.

At a time when the government proposed to cap the number of overtime hours at 100 hours per month and 720 hours per year, the government-set danger line for karoshi, there were growing concerns that such a proposal would lead to moves like the one recently made by Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance.

Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Councilors Kurabayashi Akiko on June 19 at a House Labor Committee meeting brought up this issue. Kurabayashi criticized Mitsui Sumitomo for raising the overtime cap in anticipation of the passage of the government proposal on overtime. The JCP lawmaker said, “The government has been insisting that its proposal will contribute to reducing excessively long working hours, but what we see with this move is the opposite.”

Labor Ministry Labor Standards Bureau Chief Yamakoshi Keiichi replied that the ministry will give the insurance company instructions to cut overtime as much as possible. This reply is tantamount to admitting that Kurabayashi hit the nail on the head.

Kurabayashi urged the government to set a legally binding limit on overtime which should be 15 hours a week, 45 hours a month, and 360 hours a year as stipulated in the Labor Ministry’s own records.

Past related articles:
> Ruling block bulldozes through ‘work-style reform’ package bill [May 26, 2018]
> JCP calls for work system in line with 8-hour workday principle [May 12, 2018]
> Gov’t seeks to set overtime at 720 hours a year, two times longer than current limit [February 16, 2017]
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