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August 29, 2023

Japan: Asano Publishes Article on Paradigm Shift in Labor Tribunal Proceedings

Alvin Goldman

Reprinted with the permission of the Bulletin of the U.S. Branch of the International Society for Labor and Social Security Law

A recently published study explains that beginning in 2006, pursuant to the Labor Tribunal Act of May 2004, Japan initiated a tripartite system for resolution of individual disputes in which a career labor judge is joined by two part-time members –one with managerial experience, the other with labor organization experience. The tribunal conducts three sessions with the parties and attempts to help them reach a mediated resolution. T. Asano, “Labor Tribunal Proceedings: The Paradigm Shift in Labor Dispute Resolution and its Future Challenges”, 7 Japan Labor Issues No. 43 (May, 2023).

Cases are presented to the panel orally in an informal setting. If a mediated settlement cannot be reached by the end of three sessions, the tribunal issues a decision that is final and binding unless appealed within two weeks. Timely appealed decisions are transferred to a civil court for determination under ordinary civil procedures.

According to the author of the above cited study, public confidence in the expertise of these tribunals is fostered by holding an annual study meeting for labor tribunal members at which they are kept up-to-date on both legal and practical labor relations developments.

The success of the 2004 reform is suggested by the fact that in 2020, only 15% of the cases settled by labor tribunals were appealed to the courts. The author also notes that small and medium size enterprises often lack understanding of their legal obligations to employees; an information gap the author says often is filled for the parties in the course of the tribunal sessions.

Alvin Goldman

Editor, Bulletin of the U.SBranch of the International Society for Labor and Social Security Law