Filed under #SSDD: Maternity leave and the “pregnancy rota” of the Japanese workplace are in the news again.
I figured I’d add my 2 yen on the debate. After all, I discovered that I was pregnant a day after starting my new (and current) school.
I’ve been trying to get my husband to write a guest post on his experience taking paternity leave… But, so far he hasn’t.
In the meantime, I will share my experiences on working while pregnant in Japan, as well as taking maternity leave and child care leave in Japan.
If you’re curious about “pregnancy rotas,” I’ll share a quote from a June 4 article from Japan Today titled, ‘Pregnancy rotas’ add to working women’s woes in Japan:
The issue of “pregnancy rotas” hit the headlines earlier this year when a man wrote about his wife’s experience getting pregnant “out of turn.” In a letter to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, he said he and his wife had apologised to her boss at a nursery…
The letter sparked a debate about the practice, which experts say is particularly prevalent in sectors that struggle to find and retain employees, like the daycare industry.
And since the daycare industry is where I work, I’m sharing my experience.
To be perfectly honest, my experience is nothing like the one in the Mainichi Shimbun. But, I was afraid that things would end up that way considering the timing of my announcement.
Literally the day after I signed my new contract, I found out I was pregnant. Which would be exciting news, right?
Except after years of trying, I just accepted my loss and said screw it.
I went to mainland China for the first time. My husband and I went to Taiwan 2 months later, and had a July trip for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh booked.
I also I booked a December cruise for my mom, sister, and me. (Still need to put my $400 credit to use.)
Pay for invasive surgery that might not even work? Nah, I’m cool. No need to dwell on something I can’t change, right?
So, with this YOLO mindset, you can see why I was shocked to find out I was pregnant, especially after I just started a new job.
On top of that, I was the replacement teacher! (Seriously!)
How could I leave after just getting to know my new students?
How could I stay?
Should I quit?
Do I need to help find a replacement teacher?
I had so many questions but it was only after an outbreak of chickenpox in my own classroom, that I decided to come “clean” to my headmistress. And after consulting with the head office, I made my choice to stay up until the start of maternity leave in mid-December.
I spent October/November getting my kids ready for the winter concert and choreographing two dance routines and designing stage props.
Although pregnant daycare workers seem to get the short end of the stick in Japan (if we rely solely on news articles), being a teacher worked very much in my favor as a working pregnant woman.
I could rest during my students’ nap time. If I needed fresh air, I could send my kids outside for playtime. And most, importantly, I could schedule toilet time whenever I wanted to!
In the end, things worked out very well for me. After a year off, I made sure to express my intention to go back to work. Last December I took over for a teacher (on a part-time schedule), and I now work semi-full time (時短, jitan, a shortened work day).
Now, that all was possible due to two factors:
My husband took paternity leave (less than 3% of Japanese men take paternity leave).
I was able to get my daughter into daycare (Note: it’s really hard for babies 0-1 years old to get into daycare because of the teacher:baby ratio and the overall shortage of daycares in Tokyo).
I’ll end this post with a few tips for working while pregnant, and taking maternity and child care leave in Japan.
Tips for working while pregnant:
Know. Your. Rights.
You can adjust your work schedule to avoid commuting during peak hours. You can leave early/arrive later to go to doctor’s appointments.
Sure, some of your co-workers or bosses might grumble and complain, but don’t worry about them. Focus on your health and the well-being of your child.
Especially if you are a full-time salaried employee. You can’t be fired, but do keep an eye out for maternity harassment (マタハラ/mata hara), which may be done to make you quit. And if you quit, you might be losing out on benefits.
If someone is stepping on your toes, document everything and be prepared to take your battle to your local Labor Standards Buereau (労働基準局/Roudou Kijunkyoku).
Tips For Maternity Leave and Child Care Leave
Know The Schedule
Maternity leave and child care leave are two completely different things.
Maternity leave (産休/sankyuu) is the period consisting of 6 weeks before giving birth (産前休業/sanzen kyuugyou) and 8 weeks after givng birth (産後休業/sango kyuugyou).
Legally, you can’t work after birth until 8 weeks have passed (6 weeks if you have a letter from your doctor).
Be Prepared To Do Lots Of Paperwork
I can’t even remember all the paperwork that my husband and I had to fill out in the months before and after the monster was born. And I even had to fill out something last month about adjusting my pension payments. Keep copies of everything that you submit, too.
ANYONE Can Take Maternity Leave
Regardless if you’re a full-time, contract, part-time, arubaito, or full-time salaried worker with benefits, every woman is entitled to maternity leave.
Maternity leave is also available for you even if you had a miscarriage (provided you’re pregnant for more than 12 weeks) and if you’ve had a stillbirth. This is the law.
Now (paid) maternity and childcare leave, that depends on if you’ve how long you’ve paid into the unemployment scheme for more than 1 year…
Have Savings On Hand
Maternity leave benefits (出産手当金/shussan teatekin): You get ⅔ of your monthly salary for the duration of your maternity leave, paid 2-4 months after birth.
Child care leave benefits (育児休業給付金/ikuji kyuugyou kyuufukin): you get ⅔ of your monthly salary for the first 6 months of child care leave, then it drops to ½ for the remainder of your child care leave.
To calculate how much you could receive in maternity and child care leave payments, use this calculator (link in Japanese).
Need more information on maternity leave and child care leave in Japan? Ask away on the Baby Kaiju Facebook Page.