tokyodev forum

Unpaid leave of absence

I am currently in the process of looking for my first job in Japan (but not my first job in general). One thing that’s on my mind is that I know I will have to come back to my country for some weddings later next year (which are conveniently spaced at either ends of a month :expressionless:). So I was wondering how I could make that work.
Is there such a thing as unpaid leave in Japanese work culture?

Japanese law doesn’t require companies to give paid vacation until after you have worked at a company for six months. However, exact rules will depend on the company.

When I joined my first company in Japan, I had a vacation planned that would require me to take one weekday off. When I told the company about this, they were fine with granting me the extra day of vacation early.

Personally, it isn’t something I’d worry about until after you are hired. If you disclose this upfront during interviews, it will only hurt your chances, and isn’t really relevant then. Rather, I’d assume you can find a way to work it out afterwards.

Of course, taking unpaid leave is one option. Depending on the company’s rules, if you take too many of these, you may forfit your bonus, which for some companies can represent a sizeable portion of your income.

Also, I’d keep in mind that to a Japanese company, especially one without a lot of experience with non-Japanese, your request might sound totally foreign, and they might have trouble understanding why you have to attend. A Japanese employee in a similar situation would probably just not attend the wedding, unless it was something like a sibling getting married. In that case, they’d probably try to minimize the time off, by doing something like flying in just for the day of the wedding itself, even if this means they’re spending more time in the airplane than on the ground. This is all to say to be successful in Japan requires somewhat flexible thinking and adapting to local values.

1 Like

Very informative, thank you Paul. That’s an interesting take from the employer’s perspective, I’m definitely going to have to pay closer attention to the cultural angles of situations like this one.

To build off one of your side points, what does it normally take to receive the bonus you mentioned?

Traditional Japanese companies give bonuses that are basically guaranteed twice per year, and are typically one to two months salary. In Japan it is hard for a company to cut employees base salary if the company is struggling financially, but bonuses are easier to cut, so they give the company flexibility. This wikipedia article has a bit more details.

1 Like