“It’s time to create a new working environment in Japan. Everyone should be able to have a family and a career. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Glen Wood campaigns in Japan for the right of fathers to take parental leave. A real but very theoretical right, explains this Canadian, boss of Smart Vision Logistics, because, in Japanese society, the employee remains “the property of the company, not the property of the family. Also, if you take paternity leave, you are committing an act of treason.” “I think that way of thinking remains strong,” he says.

He himself has experienced it: the Tokyo Court of Appeal rejected, on Thursday, June 23, the harassment complaint he had filed against his former employer, the securities firm Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley, because he wanted to take paternity leave.

The affair began in 2015, when he learned that he was going to become a father. A resident of the Archipelago for nearly thirty years, the well-regarded financier knows that the Japanese system of parental leave is advantageous: fathers can take leave until the child’s first birthday by receiving up to 67% of their income. Glen Wood applies. The company abruptly rejects his demands.

Her son was born in October 2015. The child is premature. Its survival is threatened. Despite this, his employer refused to allow Glen Wood to join his family. After a few days, unable to stand it any longer, he left his post, presenting the company with a fait accompli. He then ceases to be paid. Then he began the process, in particular seizing the Ministry of Social Affairs for an advisory opinion, and obtained his paternity leave in December.

Aging country

When he returned to the office in March 2016, the company made him pay for his stubbornness. Here it is plastered. He falls into depression and takes sick leave. Restored, he returned to learn of his demotion “with a salary cut by more than 50%”. In 2018, Glen Wood was fired without compensation.

For him, it is clearly harassment and he is complaining. At first instance, the court – which refused to hear the witnesses it submitted – rejected his allegations, saying that it had not found “reasonable grounds” characterizing harassment. Mr. Wood is even criticized for having made the case public instead of resolving it quietly with the company. The judgment is upheld on appeal. Glen Wood now wants to take the case to the Supreme Court, while campaigning for a real acceptance of paternity leave.

An emergency in an aging country, where only 811,604 babies were born in 2021, a historic low, and where the question of work-life balance is just beginning to arise. This tremor led the government to set itself, in 2021, the objective of increasing the proportion of fathers on parental leave to 30% by 2025, against 12.65% in 2020. The law has been amended and obliges companies to encourage fathers to take their leave.

Some groups play the game: 80% of employees of the telecom operator NTT have already taken parental leave for an average of fifty-one days. Others less: since the departure of Mr. Wood, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley facilitates the taking of such leaves. However, according to the old framework, “most fathers would only take a day or two. This allows the company to claim that 100% do it.”