More companies in Japan allow employees to take ‘grandchild-care’ leave

Employees can take up to 10 days off per year if they have two or more grandchildren. -AFP

TOKYO: More companies and government bodies in Japan are allowing their employees to take leave to look after their grandchildren as the retirement age goes up and dual-income households become increasingly common.

The government of Koriyama city introduced the leave entitlement in February, The Asahi Shimbun reported on Thursday (Nov 30).

Yukari Furukawa, an employee at the department of children under Koriyama’s goverment, told the newspaper she has taken leave four times in 2023 to look after her grandchildren aged one and three.

“My daughter has few people around to rely on, and it is hard for her to raise children while she pursues her career,” said Furukawa, 60.

“Thanks to grandchild-care leave, I can support my daughter’s family and see my adorable grandchildren.”

During those four days, Furukawa took care of her grandchildren while her daughter and son-in-law went to work early in the morning.

With the increase of the mandatory retirement age of prefectural workers, the number of workers who have grandchildren has also increased, said an official from Miyagi’s prefectural government human resources division.

He added: “Taking grandchild-care leave is easier to gain understanding from their colleagues than taking regular paid leave, which then helps them feel less hesitant about taking it.”

Okinawa Financial Group introduced the grandchild-care leave entitlement in April, which will allow employees to take up to five days off per year if they have a grandchild of pre-school age.

Employees can take up to 10 days off per year if they have two or more grandchildren.

A spokesman for the company said: “Our employees’ engagement goes up when there is a system in place that allows them to work with their minds at ease, and it also helps them work for a long time.”

Harumi Kakazu, who works part-time for the Bank of Okinawa that is affilated with the financial group, said she took leave in June to care for her daughter and three-year-old grandchild when her daughter was down with a fever.

Before the leave entitlement was introduced, the 62-year-old mainly used paid leave for hospital appointments and other personal purposes, which left her with no leave days to help care for her daughter and grandchild.

“I feel free to use the grandchild-care leave, and my daughter and family members are also happy as they were previously hesitant to ask me for help,” said Kakazu.

Junji Miyahara, head of diversity and work-life balance promotion at Toray Corporate Business Research, said such benefits will likely become more popular, as it allows companies to promote a flexible work environment.

However, Miyahara added that local governments and companies must encourage husbands to be more involved in parenting to reduce the burden of child-rearing for families with young children. - The Straits Times/ANN

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