• Salaries have to be paid regularly, directly, in whole, in currency, at least once a month
  • You can ask the Labor Standards Inspection Office and the Labour Bureau for help
  • Lawyers can help you as well

Five rules about payment of wages

According to the Labor Standards Act, there are five principles regarding payment of wages. It is illegal if your employer is not following these principles below. According to the Labor Standards Act, employers who do not pay salaries to their employees can be charged up to ¥300,000.

  1. Wages need to be paid in currency: In Japan, employers are not allowed to pay the wages of their employees in checks or something that is not money, unless there is an agreement or it is permitted by another law. For example, if your employer gives you gift cards as your salary without your agreement or permission by law, this is illegal.
  2. Wages need to be paid directly to an employee: Unless you cannot receive your wages for reasons such as your health condition, you are suppose to receive your wages directly from your employer. Your family or friends cannot be the recipient of your wages.
  3. Wages need to be paid in full: Employers need to pay wages in full unless permitted by other laws and regulations or there is a written agreement.
  4. Wages need to be paid at least once a month: Exceptions are extraordinary wages including bonuses and retirement allowances.
  5. Wages need to be paid at a definite date: Employers cannot pay wages on “any day between the 15th to the 30th” or “the second Monday of every month.”

What should you do?

In case you are not paid based on the five principles, there are four ways to have your employer pay your salary.

The first thing you can do is to mail a bill for the unpaid salary to your company. Make sure to write to your employer how long you have gone without being paid and how much money you have not been paid. You could consider mentioning some sort of incentive for them to pay you. For example, you could ask them to pay a late fee if they do not pay you within a week after receiving the bill. By asking them to pay you this late fee, you can show them how serious you are and they may be more likely to pay you. It is wise to send the bill in as content-certified mail as proof that the bill was sent.

If you find it difficult to solve the problem on your own, declare the situation to the Labor Standards Inspection Office. Declaration is free and can be done anonymously. The Labor Standards Inspection Office will do research on the company you work for and consult them to pay the unpaid salary. However, the Labor Standards Inspection Office only consults and is not able to obligate, so there is no guarantee your employer is going to pay you after the consultation.

Asking the Labour Bureau for help is another option. The Labour Bureau is there to solve conflicts between employers and employees, and since you and your employer have a conflict over the unpaid salary, you can request help from the Labour Bureau for settling the dispute. Just keep in mind that, like the Labor Standards Inspection Office, the Labour Bureau does not have power to make your employer pay you. 

The last resort is to use the knowledge and experience of lawyers. If your employer would not pay you even after the consultations from the Labor Standards Inspection Office and the Labour Bureau, then you should consider asking a lawyer for help. In this case, you may need to file a suit against your employer, which can take time and money. But this is the most powerful way to have them pay you.

Don’t hesitate

Even though you might feel awkward or hesitant to ask your employer about your unpaid salary, you have the right to get paid for your work. So don’t hesitate to confront your employer to get your unpaid wages.