Japanese work rules

Japanese work rules

Before you even begin to look for employees, however, you should understand the types of employees who might work for your firm and establish work rules for each type.

Loosely speaking, employees at a Japanese firm are classified as temporary help, contract laborers and full-time employees.

Temporary help and contract laborers may be hired directly by a firm or come from a temporary agency. Despite the moniker of "temporary help," however, many of these people work for many months at a firm. It is largely through such temporary workers, overtime and the bonus system that large Japanese firms are able to provide lifetime employment. When times get tough, temporary staff, overtime and bonuses all shrink.

Thus, firms - even large Japanese ones - feel little or no obligation to retain temporary staff during troubled times. But because the desire for lifetime employment is strong at all levels of Japan's business culture, foreign firms need to develop good work rules. Without such rules the firm will find it very difficult to eliminate a poor employee.

Because of the importance of such work rules, a new foreign firm may want to develop its rules before employees are hired because the involvement of employees or unions in the drafting of work practices will only complicate matters for the firm.

Such work rules could include salaries based on seniority or position, as is standard in large Japanese companies. But this is not needed in smaller Japanese firms where salaries are often negotiated individually.