(June 22, 2020) On June 1, 2020, the 2019 amendment to the Labor Policy Comprehensive Promotion Act (Act No. 132 of 1966, amended by Act No. 24 of 2019 (Reiwa)) took effect. The amendment act, nicknamed the “Powa-Hara (Power Harassment) Prevention Act,” had been promulgated on June 5, 2019.
A 2016 survey on power harassment in workplaces that was conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) indicated that 32.4% of consultations requested by employees were regarding power harassment and that this was the most named topic on which employees wanted consultations. The ratio of employees who answered that they had experienced power harassment over the past three years stood at 32.5%. The number of consultations regarding bullying or harassment at prefecture labor bureaus has increased in recent years, with 82,797 cases recorded in 2018, up 14.9% from the previous year.
The amended act added a new chapter 8, titled “Measures that business owners should take regarding problems arising from behavior due to [subordinates’] relationships with superiors in the workplace.” In this chapter, the problem of “power harassment” is defined as “remarks and behavior of people taking advantage of their superior positions in the workplace that exceed what is necessary and appropriate for the conduct of business, thereby harming the working environment of employees.” (Labor Policy Comprehensive Promotion Act art. 30-2, para. 1.)
The amended act obligates employers to take measures to prevent power harassment, such as establishing a proper system for providing consultations for employees regarding power harassment followed by responses to their concerns. (Art. 30-2, para. 1.) The amended act also prohibits employers from punishing employees for filing power harassment complaints. (Art. 30-2, para. 2.)
In addition, the amended act obligates the MHLW to establish guidelines on measures to be taken by employers. (Art. 30-2, para. 3.) On January 15, 2020, the MHLW issued the Guidelines for Employers to Implement Employment Management Measures for Problems Caused by Behavior Arising out of the Relations of Employees’ Superiors to Other Employees in Their Workplaces. (MHLW Notification No. 5 of 2020.) The Guidelines obligate employers to take the following measures:
- Explain what constitutes power harassment, establish a policy forbidding it, and include provisions in the work rules to prevent it.
- Make it clear that they will take strict action against employees who breach these provisions by specifically labeling such breaches as a cause for disciplinary action.
- Set up a consultation service for employees who are distressed because of power harassment.
- Ensure the consultation service functions properly by, for example, providing training for personnel in charge of consultation services.
- Promptly investigate facts pertaining to alleged power harassment and, if the occurrence of harassment is confirmed, promptly take measures to provide care for victimized employees, such as by relocating them, and to reprimand the perpetrator in accordance with the employment rules.
- Make employees thoroughly informed of the necessity of confidentiality and the prohibition of disadvantageous treatment. (Guidelines at 11–19.)
Alleged victims who are not satisfied with the employer’s solution can request mediation through the prefecture labor bureau. (Labor Policy Comprehensive Promotion Act art. 30-6.)
Initially, the law applies to large companies only, and requires small- and medium-sized businesses only to endeavor to comply with the amended act until the law takes full effect in June 2022 and applies to them as well. (Act No. 24 of 2019 (Reiwa), supp. art. 3.)