Japan Launches "Stress Check-up System"

by Enhesa 02 Dec. 2015

On 15 April 2015, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (hereinafter referred to as ”MHLW”) published a Ministerial Ordinance regarding workers’ mental health. The Ordinance specifies the amendments to the relevant regulations under the revised Industrial Safety and Health Act of 25 June 2014. The Ordinance establishes "Stress Check-up System.” This new system is a part of the Government’s efforts to improve and reinforce measures for workers’ mental health. In addition to the Ministerial Ordinance, MHLW published the Ministerial Notification and Guidelines for Stress Check-ups, Further Consultations and Counter Measures for Worker’s Mental Illness. The Ordinance, the Ministerial Notification and the Guidelines came into force on 1 December 2015.

Key provisions of the Ordinance include:

  • Businesses will be required to provide all employees with periodic stress check-ups by doctors or health nurses(保健師) to understand the state of their mental health at least once per year
  • When requested by their employees, businesses are obliged to coordinate further consultation with the doctors for the employees
  • Record of the periodic stress check-ups and further consultation by the doctors will need to be kept for at least 5 years
  • Based on the results of the further consultation with doctors, and if deemed necessary, businesses will have to make appropriate work arrangements for the relevant employees to reduce their mental stress (e.g. changing working locations, changing the nature of works, and/or reducing working hours)
  • Businesses will be required to annually report to the local authority the implementation status of stress check-ups and consultation by the doctors.

The obligation will be imposed on businesses that have 50 or more employees. Smaller businesses with less than 50 employees will have a general duty to “make efforts” to implement the stress check-ups for their employees until otherwise provided for by the Ordinance. The duty is non-binding and there will be no penalties imposed on the businesses with less than 50 employees for not providing the stress check-ups for their employees.

Further details such as requirements for doctors or health nurses to conduct stress check-ups and associated tasks for the Health Committee at workplace are defined by relevant regulations, the Ministerial Notification and the Guidelines. Businesses should note that they include provisions of protection of workers from unfavorable treatment by employer due to the results of stress check-ups or consultations.