Types of Leave

The following types of leave are stipulated in your contract. This information is taken from the basic "template" contract, and may differ from your individual contract. Please confirm the details and rules of your situation with your contracting organization.

Paid Leave (年休 nenkyuu)

Two types of leave fall under the "paid leave" category:
1. Japanese national holidays, including the New Year's holiday period (December 29-January 3)
2. A certain number of days (often 20) of yearly paid leave that can be taken individually or consecutively, or in hourly units. A certain number of unused days (often up to 12) can be carried over to the new contract period upon recontracting.

Most paid leave issues concern the second category. In order to take paid leave, you must inform your contracting organization. Your supervisor may refuse your request if it would interfere with smooth working operations. For this reason, it is recommended that you plan your leave in advance as far as possible, and avoid taking time off when school is in session and before major events, etc.

Taking time off for "personal days," running errands like getting your driver's license, or "sick days" when you have a cold often fall under paid leave. Plan your vacations accordingly so you have leftover leave to take time off if you need to.

Sick Leave (病休 byoukyuu)

Sick leave can be used if you are too sick to work. Usually sick leave is used in cases where you are very ill for a consecutive number of days (like the flu). There is a maximum number of days that can be taken as sick leave; if you are sick for a longer period of time, it will fall under additional leave (see below).

Taking sick leave may require a note from a doctor or a different administrative procedure than normal paid leave. Make sure you consult with your supervisor about what to do if you are sick.

Compensatory Leave (代休 daikyuu)

If your supervisor directs you to work on days you normally have off (weekends), you should be given compensatory vacation days to be used within a certain time period (ex. 12 weeks) of the relevant week in order to maintain an average of 35 working hours per week.

Daikyu procedure varies greatly by situation. Even if it is stipulated in your contract, in practice it is very common for Japanese employees to work overtime, especially teachers. Confirm the procedure and expectations with your contracting organization.

Other kinds of leave

  • Bereavement leave: in the event of the death of a family member
  • Marital leave: in the event of your marriage
  • Natural disaster leave: in the event of damage to your place of residence
  • Commuter transport system failure leave: if your commute is disrupted
  • Pre-natal, Post-natal, Nursing, Parental leave: if you have a baby. This is unpaid leave.
  • Menstrual leave: when unable to work due to severe discomfort
  • Additional leave: if you cannot work for more than 20 consecutive days due to illness or injury

Common issues regarding time off

These are some of the common issues that arise between individuals and their COs. These issues can only be resolved by communicating about the rules and expectations you both have, and while a PA can help mediate the conversation, neither a PA nor CLAIR can make your CO do anything. Your CO's rules regarding leave may differ greatly from others around you. It does not help to compare situations; all you can do is work within the system you are in.

ALT does not get daikyu for speech contest

Some schools may choose to count overtime hours after school towards exchange leave. Some schools may not. Many teachers put in hours of unpaid overtime--this is not to say that ALTs should also, but ALTs may be treated as a normal staff member in this regard. If you are expected to work unreasonable hours for speech contest or other overtime, bring up the issue of workload to your supervisor/school, and try to find other ways to lighten your workload after hours.

ALT wants to take time off when school is in session

Even if it seems convenient for the ALT's personal schedule, it is inconvenient for the school to have staff members absent during normal school hours. If you must be absent for a serious reason, such as a death in the family, attending a wedding, etc. you should consult with your supervisor/school as soon as possible and try to arrange your schedule so it inconveniences your coworkers as little as possible.

If you want to take time off for traveling, please do so when school is not in session (such as summer/winter vacation). Think back to when you were a student--how often did your teachers take time off from school, and what was the reason they gave? Your absence will be felt more than you may think.

Also keep in mind is that if your school is more lenient and you abuse the system by taking lots of time off, your school/BOE may become stricter with allowing time off for you, other ALTs in your town, or your successor. If you are lucky and have a lenient situation, don't be the person who ruins it for everyone else.

ALT has to take nenkyu during summer vacation even though school is not in session

In Japan, even though classes are not in session, students and teachers still go to school almost every day. Many students have club practice or extra study sessions. Teachers lead those practices and study sessions, and use that time to catch up on lessons and prepare for the next semester. While many teachers take time off for Obon in August, in principle, teachers must go to work every day. In practice, the atmosphere may be less rigid, but ALTs should also expect to go to work every day in the summer. Some schools may not require ALTs to go in every day, and instead have them go to the BOE or "self study at home."

This varies by situation and ALT should obey the rules stipulated by their CO. Summer vacation is a good time to plan for the semester ahead, bond with students and teachers, visit club activities, study Japanese or teaching/ESL theory, or try a new project. If an ALT feels it is unfair, it may be good to remember that CIRs do not get summer vacation, nor does their workload necessarily lessen in summer like ALTs.

CIR's travel time does not count towards daikyu

In principle, daikyu is to be used for time worked. Just as travel time does not count towards normal working hours, it usually does not count towards daikyu hours. CIRs should confirm with their CO how to take daikyu.

ALT/CIR has been asked to work on a weekend, but they already made plans

In this instance the ALT/CIR should weigh carefully the importance of the work event against the importance of their personal plans. Some things to consider are repercussions in office relationships, how much their decision would inconvenience their coworkers, how fixed their plans are (plane tickets bought, etc.), and how much omiyage would be necessary to smooth things over.

ALT/CIR wants to take byokyu when they are sick

Byokyu is usually intended for illnesses requiring consecutive days off, such as the flu. It is not usually intended for a preventative doctor's appointment or resting up from a cold. It is important to confirm the procedure for taking sick leave with your CO so that you know what to do if you are sick. You may need to get a doctor's note, which sometimes doctors charge for. It is also important to schedule your vacation time so that you have some nenkyu left over in case you catch a cold and have to take nenkyu.

ALT/CIR doesn't want to take nenkyu during a typhoon

If a typhoon is very strong, it may be too dangerous for you to go to work or school. Train lines may be delayed and roads may be flooded. Schools may decide to cancel classes because it is unsafe for children to commute, but teachers may still be expected to go. Some ALTs may wonder, "If it's unsafe for the students, isn't it unsafe for the teachers?" Your school or workplace may allow you to stay home without taking nenkyu, but in principle, all workers are expected to try to get to work. If trains are delayed, the station usually gives out notes stamped with the time as proof. If the system seems unfair, ALTs/CIRs from cold climates may recall how often their parents got snow days from work when school was canceled.

ALT/CIR has a different number of days off allowed than another ALT/CIR

The number of days off each individual ALT/CIR is allowed are specified in the contract. This may vary by contracting organization, and there isn't much you can do to change it once you've already signed the contract. Instead of comparing your situation to another person's, which has too many variables to be a fair comparison, focus on how you can use the days you are allowed off most effectively.

ALT/CIR wants to take time off but CO won't allow it

When you want to take time off, you must request to take leave from your supervisor, who has the right to refuse your request if it would interfere with smooth working operations. This is the description written in most contracts. How often this is practiced in reality depends on your supervisor and your request. Listen to the reasons why your request was denied and try to change your schedule if possible.

ALT/CIR wants to use all of remaining leave at the end of their contract to start new job early

Some COs may object to graduating ALTs/CIRs using all their remaining leave at the end of their contract. They may have planned to have you help your successor adjust, or you may be inconveniencing your school or CO by moving administrative procedures up. ALTs/CIRs should try to end on a good note with their CO, and coordinate their job transition to be as smooth as possible for all parties.