Childcare In Japan: A Comprehensive Guide to Maternity & Paternity Leave

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If you’re a working parent in Japan, raising children can be challenging. Not only do you have to navigate the common difficulties of parenthood, but you have to do so while navigating the language, culture, and healthcare system. Fortunately, Japan has established a childcare leave system that makes it easier for workers to take leave and raise children even as they continue their careers. Understanding this system is crucial for non-Japanese English speakers living in Japan who want to start or grow their families while pursuing their careers.

What Is Childcare Leave? 

Japan’s childcare leave system provides financial assistance to workers who need time off. Unlike traditional maternity leave, which is only available to mothers, childcare leave is available to both mothers and fathers. The best part is that this benefit is tax-free, and workers on leave don’t have to pay social insurance premiums. If you’re a parent in Japan, it’s essential to know about this support system, so you can take the time you need to care for your child without worrying about the financial implications.

Much of this new system came out of the 2022 revisions of the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law. These revisions are being implemented in stages. Here are some of the key points:

Maternity and Paternity Leave for Foreigners in Japan starting Families and Having Children

  • -From Autumn 2022, Japan will establish a new “paternity leave at birth” system for male employees to take up to four weeks of flexible paternity leave
  • -From April 2022, companies must inform all employees who report pregnancy or childbirth about the maternity/paternity leave system
  • -Also starting April 2022, companies must confirm with employees whether they intend to take leave, regardless of gender
  • -From April 2023, large Japanese companies with over 1,000 employees must report the annual percentage of childcare leave taken by male employees
  • -Starting Autumn 2022, both male and female employees can take childcare leave twice before their child turns one year old
  • -Starting April 2022, fixed-term employees who have been employed by the same employer for one year or more are eligible to take childcare-related leave, regardless of their gender.

A Deeper Look At The 2022 Child Care And Family Care Leave Revisions

Paternity Leave at Birth: Also called “postpartum papa leave”, paternity leave at birth allows fathers to take time off to care for their newborns. To use this system, fathers must apply at least two weeks before the expected date of childbirth. The period that can be taken is from the date of birth to the day after 8 weeks, and the maximum period of 4 weeks (28 days) can be divided up into two (apply in advance).

Installments for Taking Childcare Leave: This revision allows both parents to divide their childcare leave, taking their leave in two installments. Both installments must take place before the child turns one year old. This allows both mothers and fathers to balance their work and childcare responsibilities more flexibly.

Extending Childcare Leave after one year: It is now possible to gain additional childcare leave benefits in special circumstances. Families who meet the requirements, such as being unable to place their child in nursery school, can receive an extension of the childcare leave benefits. Parents can apply for these extensions in stages. The first extension, if approved, will be given from the time the child is one year old to one year and six months old. At this point, parents can apply for another extension lasting until the child’s 2nd birthday. 

What Are The Conditions To Receive Childcare Leave Payments In Japan?

In order to qualify for childcare leave benefits, parents must meet the following requirements:

  1.  -Be enrolled in employment insurance as an insured person.
  2. -Have worked for at least 12 months with 11 or more working days per month in the two years prior to the start of the childcare leave
  3. -Not be certified as an unemployment benefit recipient
  4. -Plan to return to work after the childcare leave ends

*Note that if you plan to retire at the time you take childcare leave, you will not be eligible for payment. However, if you quit your job after receiving the benefits, you can still receive benefits up to the payment unit period preceding the retirement date.

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Special circumstances, such as illness or childcare leave taken for a previous child’s birth may exempt certain applicants from the second requirement. 

Parents currently receiving childcare leave benefits must also meet the following requirements:

  1. Must not receive 80% or more of their monthly wage
  2. Must work 10 days or fewer per month, or work 80 hours or fewer per month

maternal and paternal leave benefits in Japan, parental leave for moms and dadsWhat Is The Period Of Benefits For Childcare Leave? 

Childcare leave benefits in Japan have different payment periods for mothers and fathers. For mothers, the leave period starts from the day after the childbirth leave period ends (within 8 weeks after childbirth) and lasts until the day before the child’s first birthday. Fathers, on the other hand, can take leave from the expected date of birth or the actual date of birth, whichever is earlier, until the day before the child’s first birthday.

Both parents can apply for and receive their benefits at the same time. However, if one of the parents returns to work before turning one year old, that person’s payment period will end on the last day before he or she returns to work.

How Much Can You Receive In Childcare Leave Benefits in Japan?

To determine your monthly childcare leave benefits, a formula is used based on your daily wage at the start of your leave. The formula changes after 180 days from the start of your leave. The daily wage is calculated by dividing your wage for the six months before the start of your leave by 180, including any additional compensation like overtime or commuting allowances. For example, if you earned 1.8 million yen in the six months before your leave, your daily wage at the start of your leave would be 10,000 yen.

There are maximum and minimum payment limits for childcare leave benefits that are reviewed annually on August 1st. As of September 2022, the maximum and minimum monthly wage limits are 455,700 yen and 79,710 yen, respectively. The payment limit is 305,319 yen for the first 180 days of leave, and 227,850 yen after that. If your payment exceeds the payment limit, it will be paid out uniformly up to the limit, and if it falls below the minimum amount, it will be uniformly raised to the minimum amount. It’s important to note that these limits were revised on August 1, 2022.

How To Apply For Childcare Leave Benefits

All applications for childcare leave benefits in Japan must go through Hello Work. The easiest way for most parents is to have their company of employment apply on their behalf. Individuals can apply through Hello Work directly, but they will have to provide proof of their wages.

Applications for benefits must be made every two months.It can take several months from the application date for benefits to be paid, so parents should make their applications well in advance.

The required documents for application differ for first-time applicants and subsequent applicants. First-time applicants must also apply for confirmation of eligibility. Both applications can be made at the same time. The necessary documents include:

 

  • -Certificate of monthly wages at the start of leave for the insured person of employment insurance
  • -Childcare leave benefit recipient qualification confirmation sheet / (First time) childcare leave benefit payment application form (MyNumber must be stated)
  • -Wage ledger, employee list, attendance book, time card, etc. that can prove the start/end date of childcare leave, wage amount, and payment status
  • -Confirmation of the child’s due date and delivery date (copies accepted)
  • -MyNumber card or a copy of the notice of my number card and identification documents (driver’s license, etc.)
  • -A copy of the passbook of the account to receive the benefits

After the initial application, applicants will receive paperwork for subsequent applications from Hello Work, as well as a list of documents required. All of this information can also be found at the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

“Mama And Papa Childcare Leave Plus”

In addition to the regular childcare leave system, parents can now take advantage of the “Mama and Papa Childcare Leave Plus” system. Mothers and fathers who wish to take childcare leave together can extend their childcare leave for up to 14 months. This extension does not require the special circumstances that other extensions do. However, the following conditions must apply:

  • -Both parents must take childcare leave before the child’s first birthday.How to get parental leave, maternity and paternity leave in Japan 
  • -The mother’s childcare leave must begin after the first day of the father’s leave.  

The application for the Mama and Papa Childcare Leave Plus system is the same as the application for the basic childcare leave system. However, the required documents are different. In order to apply for the Plus system, you must submit:

  • -A copy of each household member’s residence card
  • -Documents proving the father’s childcare leave and dates thereof
  • -*Other documents may be required depending on the situation


Applying For Extension Of Childcare Leave Benefits in Japan

Parents wishing to extend their childcare leave benefits beyond the Plus system can extend their benefits under certain circumstances. These circumstances include:

  1. -Parents who are unable to work because they must continue caring for their child.
  2. -Parents who have applied for a nursery school after the child’s first birthday, but have not yet been accepted.
    *Note: Parents have applied to licensed nursery schools
  3. -The primary caretaking spouse becomes unable to care for the child due to death, injury, illness, or other physical or mental disability, you can apply for an extension.
  4. -The parents have divorced or separated and the parent applying for the extension has primary custody of the child.
  5. -The mother who is applying for the extension is due to give birth within six weeks, or within 14 weeks in the case of a multiple pregnancy. 

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Parents can use the same application process as for the initial application through Hello Work, either independently or through their place of employment. The application must be submitted before the child turns one year old or (in the case of a subsequent application) one year and six months. 

To prove eligibility for childcare leave benefits, the parent must submit the Childcare Leave Benefit Payment Application Form and documents certifying the need for an extension, such as notification of the refusal of entrance to a nursery school, holding of admission to a nursery school, or a doctor’s certificate related to illness.

Other Notes to Keep in Mind


Apply for maternal leave and paternal leave in JapanPayment Unit Periods: The payment unit period is the monthly period calculated from the start date o the childcare leave. If you work during the leave, you need to fill in the “working days” and “working hours” on the childcare leave benefit payment application form and submit it.

Benefits When Changing Jobs: If parents change their employment within one year after quitting their previous company, they can still receive childcare leave benefits. However, they will need to submit an application for benefits from the previous employer and a separate application for benefits from the new employer. These applications must not be submitted together or parents may be disqualified from receiving benefits.

Exemption from Paying Social Insurance Premiums: During the period of childcare leave, the receiving parents and their employers will be exempted from paying social insurance premiums. This exemption period will not affect the receiver’s pension. 

The job of a parent can be incredibly demanding, especially in the early months after childbirth. Japan’s childcare leave can help parents focus on their families during this crucial time. Navigating the application process can be challenging, but the benefits are generous. If you’re a parent or an expecting parent, don’t forget that help is available. A seasoned professional can guide you through the process and ensure that you gain the support you need to take care of your family and give your child the best possible start in life.

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