Unpaid overtime work, unreasonable sales minimums you must meet, extreme punishment for small mistakes… If any of these sound familiar to you, you might be working for a “black” part time job.
For most people, part time jobs are great places to meet people and gain experience. But not all places are friendly and supportive. Due to lack of workers or the pressure to reduce labor costs, “black” companies are recently on the rise to milk part time workers as much as possible. Especially for those unfamiliar to the job scene in Japan, you may be unsure of what kind of treatment is normal and what is not. This article will highlight some characteristics of black companies.
In which sectors are “black” jobs most commonly found?
Though exploitation can happen in any sector, the service/food and education sectors appear to have the most cases.
In the service/food sector, the unpredictability of peak (busy) times seems to make exploitation easy for bosses. In many service/food related jobs, there is a big difference between a busy day and a not so busy one. Bosses can easily pressure you into working longer hours due to the sheer lack of workers.
In the education sector, like tutoring/teaching jobs, the number of unpaid work hours can be overwhelming. At a glance, teaching at academies seem to offer great hourly pays. However, this does not account for all the preparation, grading, cleaning, meetings, and anything else that may be required. This makes teachers question what the true hourly wages are if those unpaid hours are accounted for.
The Checklist: Am I being exploited?
Not knowing what is acceptable and what is not can be detrimental, as you may be unknowingly exploited while thinking “Maybe this is normal in Japan, I should be more understanding…” or “Perhaps it is my fault for not being good enough…”.
To make sure you are not suffering unfairly, I have made this checklist with some common characteristics of “black” companies/leaders. It is not a complete list but it should give you an idea of when to speak up.
- Hourly wage is below the legal minimum
You are not being paid adequately (The legal minimum hourly wage differs by district: for Tokyo, it is ¥958/h).
- Being forced to work shifts at times which you have not requested
The leader arbitrarily assigns you in shifts, at times you have made clear that you are not available. The leader ignores your personal life and other schedules. If you refuse, they may punish you or hold grudges against you.
- Getting wage cuts though you are scheduled to be working
At non-busy hours, the leader tells you that you can go “rest”. Though you have to be there at the store, you are not being paid because you are resting. (Though you would rather work and get paid.)
- Being penalized for reasonable mistakes
Your leader does not understand that everyone makes mistakes. The leader asks you to compensate for your own mistakes (buying a misplaced order, paying the difference for calculation mistakes at the cashier, etc). Even if you are not penalized monetarily, the leader yells at you in an abusive way.
- Having enforced targets you must meet
Your leader sets unreasonable minimum sales targets to their workers. If these targets are not met, the workers are forced to buy them themselves to make up for the lack of sales.
- Not being trained properly when you are new/inexperienced
You are expected to perform tasks well with little to no training. They do not give you a proper walkthrough of your job, but expect you to absorb everything just by watching others. If you make mistakes due to lack of training, you are blamed for them.
- Having too much unpaid hours
You are required to arrive more than half an hour before your shift starts for preparation. For teaching jobs, you are given way too much work that are not accounted for in your pay.
- Being forced unexpected jobs or things you haven’t initially agreed to
Your leader gives you tasks beyond your job description, for example, taking care of serving when you only applied for cooking, teaching subjects outside of your expertise… etc
- No breaks even for long hours
You are not given any breaks despite working for more than 6 hours consecutively.
- Not letting you quit the job
Your leader makes you feel guilty for resigning, saying that you are selfish for quitting at a busy time. They may even threaten you to prevent you from quitting.
- Discrimination & sexual harassment
Your leader disrespects and mistreats you due to your ethnicity or gender. You are treated less than your coworkers, perhaps providing your lack of Japanese skills as an excuse. You feel unsafe in your workplace.
What to do if you feel that you are being exploited
First, don’t get stuck in the abusive situation by realizing that it is not normal, and that it is not your fault! Do not hesitate to quit the job, and as long as you give a 2 weeks’ notice, you are completely fine.
If you are struggling to do this, you should seek help from others, such as Japanese speaking friends/teachers who may be able to back you up, or school counselors if you are in university. You can also contact organizations such as Hellowork and Black Arbeit Union. In extreme cases where you are in danger, you can contact the police as well. The important thing is to not suffer by yourself.
If you are put off to try out a part time job in Japan because of this, don’t be! Most jobs are not like this. But it is helpful to be aware of ways that you can be potentially exploited, so that you can recognize it immediately when you are caught in an abusive company.
Hope your part time experience is an enjoyable and fulfilling one!
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