There is a common misconception: Japan does not have sick pay and while many Japanese employers will allow you to believe this, the truth is a little more complicated.
Japan has a dedicated work culture. Employees often feel pressured to work, even if they are suffering or in pain. Unless you are on your deathbed, you are expected to work.
So, getting seriously sick in Japan can be especially stressful. But we encourage you to treat your health as a priority. Learn how to cover yourself if you get seriously ill while working in Japan.
Injury and Sickness Allowance
Injury and sickness allowance is called shoubyouteate (傷病手当) in Japan. This is a financial fallback measure if you are too sick or injured to work. If you qualify, you can receive up to 60% of your monthly salary.
Short or long-term sickness
You should note that shoubyouteate is only for long-term sickness. You cannot receive allowance for any sicknesss or injury under 4 days. So, if you have a fleeting cold (or heavy hangover!), it is best to take any un-used annual leave to cover the loss.
Worker’s Accident Compensation Insurance
Had an accident at work? Injury and sickness allowance does not cover any workplace injuries. Instead, check to see if your work-related accident or illness comes under the Worker’s Accident Compensation Insurance umbrella.
Am I eligible for sick pay in Japan?
In order to qualify for shoubyouteate, you must meet a few conditions:
Unable to work for 4 days or more
Before you receive sick pay, you must first be absent for three continuous ‘waiting days’. You will not be paid any amount for these three days under shoubyouteate. Check with your employer if they offer any paid sick leave in their company policies. However, this is quite rare in Japanese companies.
You must be part of some health insurance system
It is a legal requirement for employees in Japan to be part of either the National Health Insurance scheme, or health insurance through their company (shakai hoken). The National Health Insurance is cheaper to pay into each month. However, the shakai hoken monthly premium is divided 50-50 between you and your employer. Shakai hoken offers insurance coverage for a much wider range of medical and dental treatment. Whether you have National Health Insurance or Shakai hoken, the insurance will cover 70% of the costs, and you will pay 30%.
You must have medical evidence
While it is perfectly acceptable to recover at home, you need to have some proof that you are unable to work. A valid doctor’s letter is usually acceptable. Be aware that the injury or illness must be relevant to your occupation. A sprained ankle is a valid reason not to work for physical laborers, but maybe not if you work from home!
How much is sick pay in Japan?
Your total sick pay is calculated on two factors:
If you have been employed less than 12 months
Your insurer will pay you the lower of these two options:
- Prorated pay based on your average monthly salary.
- Prorated pay based on your average monthly salary in the month before you start to receive payments.
If you have been employed over 12 months
If you have been employed for a year or over, you will receive prorated pay based on your average monthly salary in the 12 months up to your absence.
How long can I get shoubyouteate?
Shoubyouteate is rather limited. You can receive sick pay for 1 year and 6 months only. This time is not extended if you return to work and then get sick again.
How to apply for shoubyouteate?
Before you apply for sick pay, be ready with the following documents:
- An application form for your insurer
- A copy of your My Number
- An official letter from your doctor (意見書)
The application form includes two separate sections for both your doctor and employer to complete. Your employer must confirm the total days you were absent and your previous monthly salary. The section for your doctor confirms the details of your sickness or injury.
The sick pay system can be a huge help. But be mindful that it can be a slow process! It can take a few weeks to calculate and backdate your pay for time missed. Try to have some savings to help you in the case of an emergency.
Know your rights
Working in Japan, you will be aware of the strong work ethic. The committed salaryman, working long hours and never taking a sick day is a pretty common stereotype. But you do not need to fall into a toxic work culture yourself.
Even if your Japanese company keeps quiet about their policies, you are legally entitled to take time off work if you are unwell. Don’t feel pressured into working with an injury or sickness. Take a rest if you need to and come back to work fighting fit!