According to the results of a survey on the state of implementation in fiscal 2013 of the system for settling individual labour disputes, announced by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) at the end of May 2014, there were 245,783 consultations concerning individual labour disputes, down 3.5% from the previous fiscal year. Of them, the number of requests for advice and guidance was 10,024 (down 3.3% from the previous fiscal year), and the number of applications for mediation was 5,712 (down 5.5%).
The most frequent consultations relating to individual labour disputes in fiscal 2013 concerned "bullying and harassment" (59,197 cases, up 14.6% over the previous fiscal year and 19.7% of the total), followed by "dismissal" (43,956 cases, 14.6% of the total) and "voluntary retirement" (33,049 cases, 11.0% of the total).
Of the consultations concerning bullying and harassment, both requests for advice and guidance (2,046 cases, up 17.9%) and applications for mediation (1,474 cases, up 13.6%) increased substantially over the previous fiscal year. Conversely, consultations concerning dismissal (43,956 cases, down 14.7%) registered a double-digit decline for two consecutive years (last year's decline was 10.9%). Consultations concerning the lowering of working conditions numbered 30,067 cases, down 11.5% from the previous fiscal year. The downward trend for both dismissal and the lowering of working conditions seems to be a reflection of the business recovery in fiscal 2013.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace are on the rise. Some bullying and harassment stems from the mental disposition of individual bosses or colleagues, but there are also cases of deliberate bullying and harassment by management designed to reduce the workforce. In the case of individual mental disposition, the bullying and harassment might be connected to stress arising from the workplace environment and working conditions. Various problems may lurk in the background, such as long working hours, inability to take holidays, poor workplace environment, low wages, and excessively high goals resulting from a results-oriented climate.
Companies have an obligation to provide workers with safe and pleasant environments for working (Civil Code, Article 715 on the obligation to give consideration to the workplace environment). It cannot be said that workplaces where bullying and harassment occur are maintaining a pleasant working environment.
Consultations to RENGO: Over 30% of them concerned sexual harassment, power harassment, other forms of harassment, and maternity protection ("maternity harassment")
On June 10 and 11 RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) organized a nationwide labour consultation service for women under the slogan "Stop sexual, power, and maternity harassment!" Consultations were received from 539 women (80% of the total). The most frequent consultations (26.9%) concerned "sexual harassment, power harassment, and other forms of harassment," followed by "dismissal, forced retirement, and termination of contract" (8.0%) and "employment contract and work regulations" (7.0%). Consultations relating to pregnancy and childbirth, which are unique events for women, were also relatively high at 4.4%.
Many of the consultations received from women concerned such power harassments as unreasonable reprimand or abuse by bosses or by those who are making use of their positions of stable employment. There was also a strikingly large number of consultations from women troubled by offensive behavior, such as remarks like "Aren't you married yet?" that infringe on private life and being kissed or touched when alone with a man. One consultation concerned an incident that occurred 30 years ago, which just goes to show how deep the problem is. The lingering mental anguish that victims of harassment suffer cannot be easily cured.
RENGO will continue to make the utmost efforts to improve workplace environments in which working women and women who will be entering the labour force in the future can feel comfortable. RENGO will also endeavor to improve the system through the revision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and other related Acts.
Consultations by Women