It’s been a hectic few weeks for those of us working in public schools here in Japan.
Naturally, chaos ensued. Local Boards of Education (BOE) weren’t sure how to handle such an unprecedented move, parents wondered what the hell to do with their kids, and teachers were concerned about their paychecks.
As an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), would I still need to report for work if the school was shut down? Would I still be paid if there were no classes to teach? There’s been a lot of conflicting information as far as what exactly our rights are as ALTs.
Are ALTs expected to work during the shutdown?
Yes, direct hire ALTs are still expected to report to work although classes were canceled for the rest of the term. This is really no different than what’s expected during summer and spring vacations in the first place.
The same applies to those on the JET Program—since they are salaried employees, class cancellations will not affect their baseline pay.
Those who fall under direct hire or salaried employee status are the lucky ones. The issue comes, once again, with dispatch ALTs.
So, what about those dispatch ALTs?
Like most things, every situation is different. We know how annoying it is to hear that overused phrase, but it’s hard to generalize across the board.
Dispatch ALT company Interac, for example, maintains on its official website that many of their schools remain open and “Interac instructors will be paid their usual salary.” ALTs whose schools are closed will be assigned “other work.”
Some eikaiwa workers reported only their lessons with children have been canceled by their schools. For these lessons instructors still receive their base pay.
There is a key legal distinction that needs to be made here regarding the nature of these “school closures.”
Last week, Abe asked all schools in Japan to close for two weeks. He also asked businesses to encourage staff to work from where possible home. As of the time of writing, no school, company or board of education in Japan has been directly ordered to close their establishment.
So, all closures in effect at the moment are at the discretion of the employer. This means they cannot, legally, refuse to pay staff, even if they do send them home.
All ALTs, be they direct hire or dispatch, are entitled to a minimum of 60% of their regular salary even if they are told to stay home and not attend school. This is the absolute minimum, according to the General Union in Osaka.
Issues with borderline illegal practices at some shady companies in Japan are well known. As such, there may be a gap between what these companies are legally obligated to do, and what they do in reality.
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