Opinions on Bill to Amend the Law Concerning the Improvement of Employment Management Etc. of Part-Time Workers
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) submitted a bill to amend the Law Concerning the Improvement of Employment Management Etc. of Part-Time Workers to the House of Representatives on February 13, 2007. The bill was prepared in response to a report concerning future measures for part-time workers prepared by a sub-committee of the MHLW Labour Policy Council on Equal Employment.
The law is about to be revised for first time in thirteen years since it first took effect. However, the above mentioned bill still differs in many important respects from assertions repeatedly voiced by us since 1989, and we cannot disregard several problems which the bill contains.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) prepared a written opinion pointing out these serious problems and submitted it to the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare on March 12, 2007.
The main points of our written opinion are as follows.
Principle of equal treatment
The law should stipulate a principle of equal treatment which prohibits discrimination in respect of all work conditions between part-time and regular workers who are engaged in equal or similar duties except for rational differences in treatment based on the shorter working hours of part-time workers.
Employers should be obliged to pay equal hourly pay for hours of work by part-time workers at the same pay rate and with the same pay increases as regular workers who are engaged in equal or similar duties. Pay should include other benefits and retirement allowances.
Benefits and Welfare
The bill requires employers to consider making available welfare facilities specified by MHLW ordinances to part-time workers; however, this is still highly insufficient. At minimum, welfare facilities which contribute to the maintenance of health and smooth performance of duties should be available to part-time workers without being limited by the ordinances.
Transition to Regular Workers
The bill sets forth measures to be undertaken by employers in order to promote the transition of part-time workers into regular workers. However, this is also significantly insufficient since the contents of the measures are inadequate and, moreover, employers are required to undertake only one measure out of all the measures provided. It should be stipulated that when there are vacant positions to be filled, part-time workers who wish to become regular workers should have priority over outside applicants.
Fixed Term of Employment
The law should stipulate prohibiting employment contracts with a fixed term of employment unless there is a reasonable justification for such fixed term due to the nature of the part-time worker's duties such as alternative, short-term, or seasonal duties. In addition, it should be stipulated that employers should not discriminate against part-time workers in favor of regular workers in determining job dismissal actions.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
March 2, 2007