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Many ALTs are still required to attend school even if there aren’t any students.
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What are ALTs’ rights during the coronavirus school closures in Japan?

17 Comments
By Liam Carrigan

It’s been a hectic few weeks for those of us working in public schools here in Japan.

On Feb 27, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked all elementary, junior, and senior high schools in Japan to close through the annual spring break ending in April to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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Anyone over the age of 30 working as an ALT in Japan seriously needs to consider their life choices; more so if they have to support a family.

-14 ( +8 / -22 )

@No Business Ridiculous comment "Anyone over the age of 30 working as an ALT in Japan seriously needs to consider their life choices."

One's inability to negotiate a fair contract and demand equality has nothing to do with their career choice. Put a little more passion into what you do and learn to negotiate, you'll see better results.

MAJOR CONCERN: Major schools are sending the native ALTS through the train system everyday while the Japanese employees are not being sent to any other locations other than their own school.

If you are going to speak up about something, you need to speak about this! Companies like and Interac are willing to expose ALTs to the Corona virus. It is an unnecessary risk. This includes schools that do "Direct Hire" with no middle man.

When word came from the WHO that it was officially a pandemic, it mattered not to these schools that have ALTs. Taking a train through major train stations, crowded hubs, increases the risk of exposure.

Do not try to victim blame. It doesn't matter what profession or field you are in. If a school dispatches a teacher through high risk contagious zones knowingly, they are endangering the employee's safety and health, that includes their families.

It will definitely be a legal battle which will take place in the post-Corona stage. These schools and their lawyers will try to claim that you could have gotten the Corona virus anywhere. However, you can argue that any commute over 1 hour through the public transportation which is spotted with bacteria and not sanitized is an unnecessary risk to the employee's safety.

These schools have to consider the safety of all their employees regardless of race. The Corona virus does not discriminate. You reap what you sow. If you are a Japanese teacher reading this and you see that your school is sending it's Native ALTs through high risk areas, you still endanger yourselves and your students.

I repeat, this virus does not discriminate as humans do. If your native ALTs lives don't matter, in effect, you are putting your own health at risk. For what, to save money.

I personally would definitely sue any school or organization that intentionally and carelessly sends a native ALT through a high risk zone just because some teachers at a remote location won't hire locally. Things have to change immediately.

Stop sending Native ALTS all the way across the city just to teach a handful of students. I don't know about the Osaka and Kansai area, but in the Tokyo area there are some lawyers who are preparing class action lawsuits for native ALTs who are being put at risk.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

You have to be crazy to be an alt in japan. These are just piss poorly paid "jobs" for children just out of school. Nothing more.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

@No Business お前は何様?Who are you to judge? I worked in the automotive industry for 10 years before I decided that I needed a change. Now I'm a college graduate with an amazing job, living in a nice apartment for dirt cheap rent, and receiving great healthcare. My American friends in their 30s wish that they had my job.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

People should not generalise.

I have been in ESL teaching for 20 years now, I am in very well paid teaching job with a proper pension, holding an MA in TEFL.

I find it very interesting and satisfying work. We make our own luck. Its what you make it.

Enough of the job bashing!!

(Any errors due to autocorrect on a small phone)

13 ( +13 / -0 )

1.I guess each person's career choice, and situation can be different. I have many friends enjoy being ALT's despite whatever we think. I have also friends who have found solace in being ALT because, other career opportunities are not coming by so easy. Remember we have VISAS to be renewed yearly, and without Job, i guess you can kiss Japan goodbye, and i repeat i know of thousands of foreigners on this Instructors VISA. So it will be ruthless to deem being an ALT a crazy option. Not all of us can be Drifters, You tubers, SNS influencers, Google, or Rakuten Workers. On the other side i know of Cities which pay 35man and above salaries, and improved packages on the verge of taking place. ( Summer & Winter bonuses & Transport). Working hours still being 8:15- 4pm Mon-Fri. Compare it to working in a normal Japanese company with long working hours, through weekends, the stress, and overly dependents on alcohol& smoking to survive through the weeks, months, and year.

From the article i would like also to add another potential problem posed by Dispatch ALT companies which might be exacerbated by the current COVID-19 plague. Some ALT's working for ES or JHS, are Stopped from going to work, as soon the number of lessons they are supposed to do in a Year are done. That usually happens from Mid February- Mid March. Companies like interact, Borderlink etc do not pay for these no work days. So Most ALT's in this category depend on their savings, and hoping in 3 weeks time the new academic year starts( April) and then will start getting paid again. In this current Situation, if opening of Schools, regular allocation of English Classes is delayed, then that spells doom to the ALT's who fall in this category. The Dispatch companies definitely will not pay them, and the legal obligations on them for these people is blurred.
4 ( +4 / -0 )

Being an ALT is still better than a lot of of other jobs (unfortunately). I would advise getting out of it by 30 though, not because it sucks now but because you'll get stuck and it will suck later

2 ( +5 / -3 )

holding an MA in TEFL

So you get, what, an extra 20,000 yen per month? You can still be fired or not have your contract renewed arbitrarily.

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

There needs to be more scrutiny with regards to the dispatch companies. Better yet, OUTLAW them and FORCE all BOE to hire their teachers direct. The teacher gets more money, the BOE spends less money, and the students get a regular teacher thats at school more often and will probably be there next year.

Everyone wins.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

So you get, what, an extra 20,000 yen per month? You can still be fired or not have your contract renewed arbitrarily.

Wrong three times!

FYI ou do an MA in humanities because you interested in it, not for the money!!! You should try it!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

So you get, what, an extra 20,000 yen per month? You can still be fired or not have your contract renewed arbitrarily.

Wrong three times!

FYI you do an MA in humanities because you interested in it, not for the money!!! You should try it!

(pesky small phone)

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I was a JET out of college and now work in a large company and pretty much hate it. After saving enough I would consider being an ALT again and living in a rural area of Japan or maybe Hokkaido. At my age I would enjoy it more and could care less if anyone thinks worse of me for doing it.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

ALT job was a life-saving opportunity for me a few years ago when I was struggling to break through in Japan. I am forever grateful. In this trying times, my thoughts are with those who may be affected by the current situation and I am not referring to only ALT's but people who work in other sectors that have been hardly hit like the tourism and aviation sectors. No job is safe in this world. Let's just understand that and let's allow people to make choices freely without the fear of being judged.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Anyone over the age of 30 working as an ALT in Japan seriously needs to consider their life choices

... and what would you suggest as an alternative, No Business? Some of us just haven't had the luck for our life choices to work out the way we had planned and worked for.

Perhaps when you get a little older, you'll realise it's not so easy to make the world dance to your tune.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Yes, I am in agreement with the no bashing, ELT-ALT-ESL teachers dispatched or not. Teachers are contributors to society. I taught English after being medically separated from the USMC. I worked at GEO's for children in the Kyushu region for 8 years worked my way up to Regional director of Kyushu. Taught at Interac after the NOVA/GEOS Bust out. In that spam of eight years with Geos I was able promote English as second language to Japanese kids. Was a golden time. Found memories. I am still in touch with many of these students and their families today. Some who have gone on to travel the world with great confidence and enter universities like, Harvard & Holy Cross , Old Dominion University to name a few. For them it all started with learning how to dance and sing and play games in English and just have fun. Serious and formal English study came later.

Its not a perfect system in Japan and lots of room for improvement. Especially here in the Kyushu region. Tokyo I guess has the best schools. But I have allot of respect for teachers who work at improving the craft and continue educating themselves to be a more effective teacher. People here like Elvis is here & Jennifer. Not easy to teach in schools here and then work part time running your own classes or in cafe setting. Or one coin. Or Eikaiwa schools. It can be a monotonous grind.

The vast majority of my friends are teachers. And they have schools or are an ALT. The fact is if you do not speak Japanese at the native level and have some qualifications outside of teaching here in Kyushu. You are going to be teaching or working in a bar, bento factory could be road construction or all of the above. The choices here in Kyushu are pretty dismal. Case in point.

https://www.fukuoka-now.com/en/classified/archive/

Teaching jobs 32. Others 5.

So, let us not bash these educators or English promoters. Thank you for what you do.

Hope everyone get's a paycheck and can pay the bills and keep healthy.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Reckless......great comments.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So you get, what, an extra 20,000 yen per month? You can still be fired or not have your contract renewed arbitrarily

Naa university teachers get proper salaries, well worth it if you can get it. Also anyone can be fired and not have their contract renewed arbitrarily anyway in Japan, but some employers, like the university I happen to work at, will follow the spirit of the law and make you permanent after 5 years (no funny business too, such places do exist).

If you coast in any job except California IT you won't go anywhere, let's be honest

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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