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Sick Leave

Sick leave (byoukyu 病休) is leave you are contractually eligible to use when you fall ill and are unable to attend your regular work hours.

However, there are some key cultural differences regarding the approach to, and application for sick leave in Japan.

Sick leave in Japan:

  • Is typically used for long-term illnesses or extended hospital stays.
  • Is usually taken in chunks spanning weeks or months.
  • Requires official documentation from a doctor’s clinic or hospital.

Sick leave in Western countries:

  • Is used for short-term health problems like colds and influenza.
  • Is often taken on a day-by-day basis.
  • Is generally granted with a phone call to work and then backed up with a Doctor’s Certificate if an extended period of leave is required.

You may find many of your colleagues come to work despite a cold or flu, wearing surgical masks. If the illness is severe enough to keep them in bed, Japanese people will also often use paid vacation (nenkyu 年休) rather than sick leave.

It is therefore advisable to thoroughly discuss the process and policy for sick leave with your Contracting Organization.