Published: Sat, October 07, 2017
Markets | By Rosalie Gross

Japan firm Dentsu fined for excessive overtime

Japan firm Dentsu fined for excessive overtime

Japanese advertising giant Dentsu was fined 500,000 yen (£3,800) on Friday after a court ruled that it had made employees work beyond legal limits.

In 2015, the despondent messages left on Twitter by Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-year-old who was working more than 100 hours of overtime a month at an ad agency, drew wide attention after she killed herself by jumping from a company dormitory.

According to the indictment, the four Dentsu employees worked up to 19 hours in overtime above the monthly limit agreed upon between management and labor during the period from October to December 2015.

The case has again highlighted the Japanese problem of karoshi - meaning death from overwork - and is an embarrassing revelation for NHK, which has campaigned against the nation's long-hours culture.

Karoshi became widely recognized as a phenomenon in the late 1980s, as stories of blue-collar employees keeling over at work appeared to expose a sinister side to Japan's postwar economic miracle.

"It's not just my daughter - tragic cases like this are happening throughout Japan, across all industries and irrespective of whether firms are large or small", she added, noting the death of the NHK reporter. "Even today, four years after, we can not accept our daughter's death as a reality", her parents said in a statement.

A year after her death, local authorities concluded the political journalist clocked up to 159 hours of overtime a month.

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"My company says it's promoting work reform, but I am doing as much overtime as before".

"We are hoping for legislative change so that stiffer penalties can be imposed when a worker dies", Takahashi's mother Yukimi said in a statement after the ruling.

Dozens of other people die every year from heart failure, strokes and other conditions brought on by punishingly long working hours.

In addition to the fine Dentsu CEO, Toshihiro Yamamoto, will take a 20 per cent pay cut for six months.

"I am too busy and stressed out and think about quitting my job at least once a day, but I guess I have to hang on", she wrote, according to the newspaper.

Labor inspectors ruled that her death was from overwork.

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