Pregnant in Japan: Maternity Leave and Pay Explained

Being a pregnant foreign worker in Japan can make anyone anxious. Among a gazillion other things, the allowed duration of maternity leave and the state of your finances during that said downtime can be a cause of much confusion – it sure was for me!

So today, I would like to talk about:

  • When maternity leave can be taken
  • What is Japan’s 出産手当金 (“shussan teatekin”) or maternity allowance
  • Who are qualified for the maternity allowance
  • How much maternity allowance can be received
  • Procedures for securing your maternity allowance
  • When you can expect to receive your maternity pay

When Maternity Leave can be taken

Before Expected Date of Delivery

You are entitled to start your maternity leave 6 weeks (42 days) before your expected date of delivery (予定日/Yoteibi). In the case of multiple births such as twin/triplet pregnancy, this is extended to 14 weeks.

After Childbirth

By law, new mothers should not be working for 8 weeks (56 days) after they have given birth. However, if you are intent on getting back to the office as soon as possible, you may do so at 6 weeks after your child is born as long as you are able to get a written permission from your doctor.

What if you give birth before or after your expected date of delivery?

If you give birth before your expected date of delivery, the difference will not be added to the ‘after childbirth’ period – this equates to an overall shorter maternity leave. If you happen to give birth past your due date, the number of days between the actual date of birth and the expected due date will be added to the ‘before childbirth’ period. This means that you end up with a longer maternity leave. However, the government will only cover up to a total of 105 days of maternity leave.

For example, if your due date is on August 21, your maternity leave will start on July 11 (42 days before). If you give birth exactly on August 21, your leave will be until October 15 (56 days after August 21). Total number of days on maternity leave: 98 days.

Let’s say you give birth on August 15 (5 days before due date) instead, your maternity leave will end on October 12 (56 days after August 15). Total number of days on maternity leave: 93 days.

What about if you deliver on August 24? Your maternity leave will be until October 18 (56 days after August 24) and you would have a total of 101 maternity leave days.

What Is 出産手当金 (“shussan teatekin”) or Maternity Allowance

出産手当金 refers to the amount of money that a company employee or public servant can receive while on maternity leave. This money is not directly from your company but from the company’s health insurance provider. The amount you receive depends on your salary and actual date of delivery (we will talk about the calculation in more details later).

Be sure not to confuse this with what the similarly named 出産一時金 (shussan ichiji kin) which refers to the ¥420,000 provided by the health insurance system whether or not you are working and is meant to cover the cost of giving birth. As a working mom-to-be, you are entitled to both.

Who Are Qualified For the Maternity Allowance

You are eligible to receive the maternity allowance if you satisfy the following 3 conditions:

1st Condition: You are enrolled in your company’s health insurance

This applies to workers who are registered in their company’s health insurance association. Unfortunately, people who are only enrolled in Japan’s National Health Insurance, such as those who are self-employed, are not eligible for this benefit.

Since the only qualification is that you are enrolled in the company’s health insurance scheme, you can receive this benefit even if you are only working part-time or are not a regular employee.

Also, there is no particular requirement with regards to the length of employment so even if you have only been with the company for a few months, don’t hesitate to consult with your finance department about this benefit.

2nd Condition: Pregnancy of at least 4 months

The maternity leave and allowance are given to women who have births, miscarriages, stillbirths or abortions after 4 months (85 days) of pregnancy. No such assistance will be given for miscarriages of less than 85 days.

3rd Condition: You have stopped working in order to give birth

This allowance is for people who have not been receiving salary for the purpose of giving birth or for those who are receiving salary less than the childbirth allowance.

How Much Maternity Allowance Can Be Received

So now, let’s talk about how much maternity allowance you can actually expect.

Before everything else, remember that the childbirth allowance is money from the health insurance provider and not directly from your company. From time to time, some people hesitate to apply for it for fear of being a hassle to their workplace. There is no need for such restraint so take advantage of this benefit with confidence.

How to calculate the maternity allowance

In order to calculate the maternity allowance, you must first clarify your ‘target period’ and ‘daily amount’.

What is the ‘Target Period’?

The Target Period is “the period from the 42nd day before childbirth (98 days for multiple births) to the 56th day after childbirth during which you have ceased working”.

Of course, it is common for the actual date of delivery to differ from the Yoteibi/予定日 (expected date of delivery/childbirth). So, for the purpose of calculating the maternity allowance, the ‘date of delivery’ or ‘date of childbirth’ is determined as shown below.

  • If you give birth earlier than the Yoteibi (予定日) or expected date: Your ‘date of delivery’ will be your Yoteibi (予定日)
  • If you give birth on the scheduled date or later: Your ‘date of delivery’ will be the actual date you gave birth

In other words, if you give birth later than the expected delivery date, the target period will be:

42 days before yoteibi 予定日/expected date of delivery
+
the number of days from the yoteibi 予定日 to the actual date of delivery
+
56 days after the delivery

In this case, the ‘target period’ increases and the maternity allowance also increases accordingly.

What is the ‘Daily Amount’?

The daily amount for the maternity allowance is:

average amount of monthly standard remuneration for the 12 months before the payment start date
÷
30 days
×
2/3

If the standard monthly remuneration fro the 12 months before the payment start date was ¥300,000 for example, the daily amount will be 300,000 ÷ 30 days × 2/3 = ¥6,600.

As for the standard monthly remuneration, this is the amount stipulated by the health insurance and employee pension insurance according to the amount of salary and other factors. It is calculated based on the total amount of basic salary, ability pay (nouryokukyuu), commuting allowance, housing allowance and others.

You can try to calculate it yourself but the only way to find out the exact amount beforehand is to contact your health insurance provider.

Sample Maternity Allowance Calculation

Expected Date of Delivery/予定日: November 1
Actual Date of Delivery: November 5
Number of days between expected and actual date of delivery: 4 days
Daily Amount: ¥6,600

With the above conditions, you can get the following birth allowance:

target period (42 days + 4 days + 56 days)
×
daily amount (¥6,600)
=
¥673,200

Procedures For Securing Your Maternity Allowance

Note that your maternity allowance is not automatically obtained and there is a procedure that must be followed in order to apply for it.

Technically, you can apply separately for pre and post-natal allowances. However, since it is cumbersome to do it twice, most people just process everything collectively after giving birth – that is the procedure I will be sharing today.

Step 1: Notify your workplace about your intent to take advantage of the maternity leave and allowance

After finding out that you are with child, inform concerned authorities at the office (managers, general affairs department, human resources department etc.) about it and that you would like to receive the childbirth allowance.

Step 2: Secure and accomplish the application form for health insurance maternity allowance

Request a Health Insurance Maternity Allowance Payment Application Form (健康保険出産手当金支給申請書) from the Health Insurance Union. Your company’s General Affairs Department or Human Resources Department might also be able to apply for it on your behalf.

Step 3: Prepare necessary documents

There may be some differences depending on your health insurance union or working condition but the documents required to apply for the maternity allowance are mainly as listed below. Check with your workplace or health insurance provider for an accurate list.

Documents required for the procedure:

1. Health Insurance Maternity Allowance Payment Application Form (健康保険出産手当金支給申請書)
2. A photocopy of your Health Insurance Card (健康保険証)
3. A photocopy of your Mother and Child Health Handbook (母子手帳)
4. Your Seal (印鑑)
5. Employer’s Certificate (事業主の証明書類)

The Employer’s Certificate (事業主の証明書類) must be prepared by the company so it would be a good idea to ask your company’s General Affairs and Human Resources departments in advance.

Also note that the Health Insurance Maternity Allowance Payment Application Form (健康保険出産手当金支給申請書) includes a space for the doctor and midwife to fill in, in addition to the space filled in by the company. Be sure to have this completed during your hospitalization. Some hospitals might take time to finish it and in that case, you can ask them to have it mailed to your home.

Step 4: Submit required documents after childbirth

Once you have all the necessary documents, submit them to the Health Insurance Association.

When You can Expect To Receive The Maternity Allowance

The maternity allowance is paid by the Health Insurance Union about one to two months after the application for the maternity allowance is received.

Suppose you gave birth on July 1 and applied for the maternity allowance on July 30. In general, your application will be processed after the end of August, when your maternity leave period ends (56 days after giving birth, remember?) and the maternity allowance will probably be paid around the end of October to the end of November.

As demonstrated above, you will realistically be out of commission for a few months after giving birth so have your finances in order in anticipation of this.

Conclusion

The maternity allowance is a great benefit for working moms-to-be in Japan. That said, it takes time and some effort in order to secure it. Strike a balance between taking advantage of this benefit and not relying on it so much that you run into some financial problems in the months immediately following your child’s birth.

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