As an employee I have undergone my yearly health checks for my employer. On the website of Jetro (Japan External Trade Organization) the legal aspects are explained: An employer must have all regular employees undergo a yearly health check-up by a doctor (or at least once every six months in the case of employees engaged in specific kinds of work which may damage the employees’ health including late night work and work involving X-rays). It seems that now the Japanese government is planning an extension to include mental health as well. According to The Yomiuri Shimbun the Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma announced in April of this year that the government plans to include mental health checks as part of corporate medical exams beginning in fiscal 2011.
As a consequence the ministry tried to come up with a way to implement the new requirement. One of the challenge is that it would be too difficult to ask all companies to check their employees by a professional psychiatrists. According to an outline of the plan obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun, doctors would only inquire about subjective symptoms that may point to depression and other mental illnesses during health checkups. If then a physician believes a certain employee should see a psychiatrist, the doctor will make a referral. How do they handle the employees privacy? Doctors will inform employers only that an employee needs to see a mental health practitioner, but will not provide any details. If a mental ailment is suspected, a meeting between the patient, a psychiatrist and company representatives will be held.
Unlike other developed regions, I believe the duties of an employer towards the employees health is much more extensive in Japan. Although I have experienced many times the image abroad that Japanese companies tend to “suck out” the life blood of employees, actually there is a legal requirement of taking good care of regular employees.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)