Paid leave, or nenkyu, is a precious commodity for most JETs, and therefore many questions/problems seem to revolve around it. Read the following points so that you can avoid some common problems.
- Nenkyu will vary Yearly paid leave for local government employees is determined by local regulations, and because we have different contracting organizations, the number of days JETs receive can vary. Nenkyu also usually varies for how long people have been working on the job, so while some of the younger teachers will only get 10 days a year, the ones that have been around longer may get 20 days.
- Use your nenkyu wisely. There have been numerous cases of people running out of paid leave towards the end of the year, and having an emergency where they needed to take a day off. At best your school will let you take Unpaid Leave, at worst, you won’t be able to miss work without breaking contract (and losing your free flight home).
- You are required to work right up until your contract ends. Unless you actually fly home on the same day that your contract ends (which is highly unusual), you may need to obtain a new temporary visitor visa (depending on how long your visa is for) for the following few days, otherwise you will be an illegal immigrant. Your school will in most cases not give you special leave for this, and you will need to use nenkyu.
- Don’t take holidays during the regular school term. This practice isn’t allowed in many countries, so don’t be surprised if your principal doesn’t let you. Before taking any holidays, find out in advance whose permission you must obtain to take leave and discuss the timing of the requested leave with your supervisor to get permission. And remember, the contracting organisation has the final say.
- Don’t be late to work. Even if nobody says anything about it that day, your supervisor might tell you one day that you need to use your nenkyu for the time you missed. Since the smallest increment of nenkyu is one hour, that means you might be required to take an hour of leave for being even one minute late. Also, if you are late, it is actually your responsibility to record it in your nenkyu book, and not your supervisor’s responsibility to hunt you down and make you do it.
- Nenkyu can be carried over. Many contracting organizations allow you to carry a certain number of nenkyu days over to the next year if you don’t use them all. This is a very common practice, and many of your teachers will have twice the normal number of nenkyu days saved up. However, if you are switching contracting organizations, you will not be able to transfer your nenkyu. Also, with most contracting organizations, if you have any odd hours of nenkyu (that aren’t part of a full day’s worth), you will LOSE those hours if you don’t use them before the beginning of your next contract year only let days be carried over. If you have 3 days and 4 hours when your contract finishes, you will get an extra 3 days with your next contract.
Many public offices/schools give their employees a few days of summer leave (夏休み natsu-yasumi). At some point you might even see a sheet passed around your office for people to indicate if/when they will use their summer leave. Ask your supervisor whether or not you are entitled to summer leave as well. Summer leave is included in some JETs’ contracts, but not others, so be sure to check your contract.
Also, some municipal BOEs let their ALTs not come in at all whenever school is not in session. This is a nice perk, but remember that it is probably not official. Be sure to confirm with your supervisor before you make your summer vacation plans, or you may be told that you have to use your nenkyu.
Some smaller contracting organizations grant their ALTs study leave to take Japanese courses in the summer, but this is something that is not in most of our contracts. For more information, see Study Leave.
Compensation time, or daikyu (代休) is given when you work outside of your normal hours. This can include teaching adult English conversation at night for your BOE, attending speech contests, working at your school festival, etc. In many cases you are required to use your compensation time within a week or two of receiving it. Procedures and rules regarding daikyu vary from school to school, so please check with your supervisor about the specific rules for your school.