Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More Difficulties in Claiming Overtime

In a previous post, I wrote about the work ethic in Japan and how it can be difficult to go home early and take holiday. Today, I’ve made some surprising discoveries about how my company operates.

Every month, I fill out an overtime sheet, writing down the hours that I’ve worked each day. Today, my boss came over and asked me what I was doing in the second week of last month. My overtime sheet stated that I had worked extra hours during those days. I told him that I had no idea and that I couldn’t remember. When I leave the office, I make a note of the time I leave. I don’t make a note of what I’m doing.

It turns out that my boss has been filling out his own excel spreadsheet for the past year that I have been working with him. For every day that I claim overtime, he has to write the reason why I’m working overtime. Every manager in the company has to do this. I couldn’t believe it, he’s been doing this for a year, and this is the first that I know about it! No wonder he gave me a funny look the first time I handed in my overtime sheet. Compared to other people who work the same hours as me or longer, I think I must be claiming much more.

On first inspection, there might be an argument that this is a good thing. If managers are told to report the reason for overtime, they might encourage their workers to go home when there’s nothing to report, and think carefully about why their workers are still in the office.

In reality, managers are just going to pass this responsibility on to the workers. This has happened to me. Every day, I’m going to write down exactly why I’m still in the office. I think that my colleagues, and the typical Japanese worker, will find it more difficult to claim overtime if they have to say why every time. If they’re still in the office simply because their boss hasn’t gone home yet, they definitely won’t claim. They will also worry about their manager coming over and saying, “Why were you here until 10pm working on this? Why didn’t you finish earlier?”

If Japan is going to address the working hours issue, the first thing that must be done is to face up to the facts. Working hours should be logged impartially by a third party. Making a worker log them himself/herself is bad enough. Making the workers write down why is even worse.

(Photo taken by inoc)


  1. In our case, the working hours are logged according to the startup and shutdown time of the computer. We then enter the time we start and stop working everyday into an online system (勤休入力). The manager just checks if it isn't insanely off the scale based on the start-up and shut-down times.

    Stupid, but that's how things work here!

    Some groups are allowed not more than 30hrs per week, whereas they actually do way over 100 hrs. I remember 2 years ago, by some order from the japanese government, all employees got to claim their actual overtime (based on startup and shutdown times) for the previous 2 years! Some folks received 何百万円!!

    Totally off the topic but I suggest u install disqus comments here. Is that doable on blogspot? not sure about that.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I did have a different comment system installed before I changed the template (not disqus though). I might put it back, but to be honest, it's already quite slow and don't know if it's worth the effort.

  3. the thing i like about disqus is trackbacks! you can immediately get a trackback if people are discussing about/posting your stuff on twitter, etc.

    Also you can sign in using FB/Twitter for commenting. Gives you a central console ot monitor all your comments on various blogs, and what not.

    Should be a few clicks to install though. not much of a hassle.


    This one is a really customized implementation though.

    mine is more basic, out of the box.