Offer suitable support for non-regular employees regardless of company size

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many non-regular employees to take leave from work. The necessary support must be provided to such employees regardless of the size of the companies they work for.

Regarding subsidies for staff who do not receive temporary leave allowances from their employers, the government plans to provide the subsidies to some non-regular staff at large enterprises, in addition to regular and non-regular employees at small and midsize companies. The government has said non-regular staff at large companies who do shift work will be covered.

It is reasonable to expand the scope of the program. It should be managed appropriately.

Employees who take time off work for the company’s convenience are normally entitled to receive leave allowances from their company. But in reality, there are many cases in which employees do not get such allowances.

Under these circumstances, the government introduced a support system last July in which it provides 80% of wages, or up to ¥11,000 a day, to employees at small and midsize companies, regardless of whether they are regular or non-regular staff.

Since last year, when infections spread, many part-time employees have been forced to take leave from their jobs due to such factors as a reduction in restaurants’ operating hours. As employees at large companies are not eligible for the subsidies, employees of major restaurant chains and other businesses have not been helped, and this has become an issue.

Non-regular employees include single parents who support their household financially and students who need to earn money for tuition and living expenses. It is important to support people whose livelihoods are unstable.

The government plans to have the expanded subsidies run for the duration of the state of emergency, in principle. The coverage will be applied retroactively to leave taken from January this year as well as the period from April to June last year, when the first state of emergency was declared.

When an employee applies to the government for the subsidy, the employee has to obtain proof of the leave and its duration from their employer. The government must come up with simple procedures and carefully explain the system to companies in order to make it easier to use.

However, it should not be forgotten that the support system is designed to provide emergency relief to those who do not receive leave allowances. If the number of companies that do not offer leave allowances increases because of the system, it would be getting the priorities backward.

In the first place, the government has provided generous employment adjustment subsidies to companies that offer leave allowances. Even for non-regular employees, up to ¥15,000 per day per employee is subsidized.

It is important for the government to strongly urge companies to use the adjustment subsidy system to offer leave allowances to non-regular staff without fail.

It’s highly important for companies to not dismiss employees but rather only have them take leave. The government should further consider ways to support the continuation of employment, and at the same time it should enhance training so that people can land jobs in industries with labor shortages as well as growing industries.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 22, 2021.