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Japan Employee Holiday and Benefits Guide: Essential Knowledge for Corporate HR

Japan’s employee holiday and benefits system is unique worldwide, especially significant for businesses operating in Japan. Understanding and adapting to these holidays is crucial for HR professionals, as it not only helps companies comply with local laws but also enhances employee satisfaction and efficiency. This guide aims to provide HR professionals with comprehensive information to better understand Japan’s holiday culture and benefits system.


I. Traditional Public Holidays


New Year’s Day (January 1st): The first day of the New Year in Japan. People usually engage in “Hatsuhinode” (watching the first sunrise) and visit shrines or temples to pray for good luck in the new year.

New Year’s Holiday (January 2nd to 3rd): An extension of New Year’s Day, many businesses and institutions close during this time, and people typically spend time at home with family.

Coming of Age Day (Second Monday of January): Celebrates young people reaching the age of 20. New adults wear traditional attire and participate in ceremonies across the country.

National Foundation Day (February 11th): Commemorates the ascension of the first Emperor of Japan, Jimmu, and is considered the founding day of Japan.

The Emperor’s Birthday (Currently February 23rd): Celebrates the current Emperor’s birthday. The Imperial Palace opens to the public, allowing people to visit and pay respects.

Vernal Equinox Day (March 20th or 21st): A day to celebrate the arrival of spring, with ancestor worship and nature appreciation activities.

Showa Day (April 29th): Remembers Emperor Showa’s birthday, marking the beginning of the Showa era and a day for reflection and looking towards the future.

Constitution Memorial Day (May 3rd): Commemorates the enactment of the 1947 constitution. Part of Japan’s Golden Week, symbolizing citizens’ rights and freedoms.

Greenery Day (May 4th): Encourages closeness to nature and gratitude for its blessings, with tree planting and environmental activities.

Children’s Day (May 5th): Also known as Boy’s Day. Celebrates children’s happiness and health, with families displaying carp streamers and samurai dolls.

Marine Day (Third Monday of July): A holiday themed around the ocean and maritime activities, expressing gratitude for the sea and wishing for the prosperity of the maritime nation.

Mountain Day (August 11th): Celebrates the blessings of mountains and encourages mountain climbing or appreciation, as well as gratitude for their existence.

Respect for the Aged Day (Third Monday of September): Honors and appreciates the contributions of the elderly to society.

Autumnal Equinox Day (September 23rd or 24th): Similar to the Vernal Equinox, a day for ancestor appreciation and remembering deceased loved ones.

Health and Sports Day (Second Monday of October): Promotes sports and physical activities to improve national health.

Culture Day (November 3rd): Promotes Japanese culture, arts, and academics, and a day for awarding cultural honors.

Labour Thanksgiving Day (November 23rd): Similar to Western Thanksgiving, a day to express gratitude and respect for the hard work of the nation’s labor force.


II. Sick Leave

In general, Japan does not have a legal right to sick leave. When employees are sick, they use their paid leave. Some foreign companies offer sick leave as a special benefit. Unless work rules or employment contracts stipulate otherwise, there is no requirement to provide sick leave. Employees absent due to non-work-related illness or injury are not entitled to wages from the employer.

Employees are entitled to Workers’ Accident Compensation Insurance in case of injury, illness, disability, or death due to employment. In the case of a work-related accident, there are several benefits to choose from.

Under employee health insurance, employees are entitled to two-thirds of their applicable standard wage (calculated based on a specific formula) as a sickness/injury allowance after being absent for three days in 18 months. However, if the employer provides any wages during this period, the allowance is reduced by the amount received.

Dismissal is rarely the immediate choice, and work rules usually include a suspension period (e.g., three to six months), during which the employee does not have to perform his/her duties but maintains a contractual relationship with the employer. If the employee recovers during this period and is able to return to work, he/she is reinstated. If the employee does not recover during this period, the employer can issue a termination notice. Various rules can be adopted in this regard, with different periods and reasons for suspension.


III. Maternity and Paternity Leave

Before childbirth: Expectant mothers can take 6 weeks of maternity leave before childbirth, or 14 weeks if having two or more children.
After childbirth: Employees cannot work for eight weeks after childbirth. However, once six weeks have passed since delivery, the employee can request work, and the employer can allow her to perform duties approved by a doctor.
Paying wages during maternity leave is not mandatory. If no wages are paid, two-thirds of the employee’s basic salary is paid from their health insurance.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Law prohibits employers from disadvantaging female employees for taking maternity leave. Therefore, employees can resume the same work under the same conditions after the maternity leave ends.

Paternity leave, known as “childcare leave” in Japan, is a benefit available to new fathers.

Childcare leave starts the day after maternity leave ends and can be taken by either the mother or father. Labor insurance covers childcare leave, and employees can take it until the child is one year old. If both parents take childcare leave, the leave is extended until the child is one year and two months old. Japan provides childcare allowances, and working parents on childcare leave are entitled to receive benefits during their child care period. The allowance is about 2/3 or 1/2 of the monthly general salary, depending on the length of their leave.


IV. Annual Leave

According to Japanese labor law, employees are entitled to at least 10 days of paid leave per year. This is a right of every full-time worker and is protected by law.

Some companies grant all or part of the bonus days when you join, but some others do not give paid leave during the first six months of employment.

Here is the detailed system of paid leave:

10 days after 6 months of work.
11 days after 1.5 years of work.
12 days after 2.5 years of work.
14 days after 3.5 years of work.
16 days after 4.5 years of work.
18 days after 5.5 years of work.
20 days after 6.5 years of work, and in the following years.

V. Other Benefit Leaves

Care Leave: Employees with family members will be eligible for this leave. The purpose of this leave is to give employees enough time to take care of their family members. Employees have 5 days of such leave per year, and those with more than two family members to care for can have an additional 5 days.

Bereavement Leave: According to Japanese labor law, full-time employees can apply for bereavement leave, but this depends on the employee’s relationship with the deceased. Employees can apply for up to 5 days of bereavement leave. If the number of leave days is insufficient, employees can use annual leave to make up for bereavement leave.

Marriage Leave: In Japan, some companies provide marriage leave for employees about to get married. Marriage leave depends on the agreement between the company and the employer. There are some conditions to get paid marriage leave. Employees must take marriage leave within 6 months after applying, and if employees resign within 6 months, it is unpaid marriage leave.

Child Care Leave: Employees who need to take emergency leave to care for a sick or injured child can take child care leave. Up to 5 days can be taken, but employees with 1 or more children can take up to 10 days.


For corporate HR departments, understanding and adapting to Japan’s holiday and benefits system is very important. This not only helps with the company’s compliant operation but also enhances employee happiness and efficiency. Through this article, we hope to provide HR professionals with a practical guide to better understand and manage the holidays and benefits of Japanese employees.

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