Types Of Special Leave
- Bereavement Leave
- Marital Leave
- Natural Disasters
- Pre/Post-natal Leave
- Maternity Leave
- Menstrual Leave
- Leave to care for an ill child
- Commuter Transportation Failure
Special Leave includes all forms of leave other than your paid leave. The details will vary from contract to contract, so this list is just for reference. These types of leave may be paid or unpaid, and are usually only allowed to be taken for a specific time period. For example, marital leave might be 5 consecutive days of paid leave, whereas post-natal leave might be 6 weeks of unpaid leave. Make sure to read your contract thoroughly to understand your leave.
In addition to the types listed above, your supervisor may give you leave at their discretion for things such as going to the immigration office. However, it is also their right to refuse this leave, and if they refuse you are required to take normal paid leave.
Sick Leave (病休/Byokyu)
Cultural understandings of sick leave differ. Many of your Japanese colleagues will usually take their regular paid leave (nenkyu) when they stay home with a cold or a fever, and would only consider taking sick leave in the event of a major illness or injury. This means that you may encounter surprise or disapproval from your colleagues when you take sick leave.
With that said, we do have sick leave in our contracts, and we are entitled to it if we become ill, so please use it if you need to. Remember that some schools will ask you for doctor’s notes, and all schools will require a doctor’s letter should you be away for a prolonged period of time. Check with your contracting organization about what documentation they require to grant sick leave before you run into this situation! Some contracting organizations will only give out sick leave if you are hospitalized, and some may also require the doctor to write a note saying that you had to rest that day and could not perform your duties. If they require you to get a doctor’s note, get the note. If they only require a receipt from the hospital, then get that. (One more reason why most Japanese people just use their nenkyu.)
While in some countries people believe that the best thing for a cold is to rest at home with a bowl of chicken soup, keep in mind that in Japan many people believe that if you are sick you must go to the clinic and receive a variety of prescription cold medicines. If you catch a cold or fever, your Japanese associates may encourage you to go to the clinic in situations where you might find it unnecessary.
Also, we had a case where an ALT was sick and called up her supervisor, who offered to take her to the hospital. He forgot to pick her up, so the next day she had a friend take her. Because she didn’t go to the hospital until the next day, her BOE made her use nenkyu for the first day that she was sick. As unfair as it may be when you have a 39°temperature, the rules are the rules.
In Japan, there is often not a limit to the number of sick days one can take. However, your contract probably has a provision that after a certain number of days, sick leave becomes unpaid leave. Also, you should not think that you have unlimited sick-leave. As a matter of fact, during Evaluations one thing that is often looked at is if you used excessive amounts of sick leave. Of course, if you truly need to stay home because you are ill, then you should not worry about how much leave you take. Just remember that sick leave is often a matter of trust. If you feel that your contracting organization is very strict about sick leave, it might be because your predecessor abused their trust. Don’t do the same thing to your successor.