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Dentsu receives paltry fine for overworking staff beyond legal limits


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

October 6, 2017 | 3 min read

Japanese ad network Dentsu has been fined 500,000 yen (£3,380) for overworking staff. The investigation was initiated after an employee logged 105 hours overtime in a month before committing suicide in 2015.


Dentsu's Tokyo headquarters

Previously a government ruling found that 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi died from ‘karoshi’, a term that directly translates to ‘death by overwork'. She threw herself from her the company dormitory balcony on Christmas day, a tragedy that launched a discourse within the company, the advertising industry and Japan.

Dentsu's offices were raided October 2016 as the police looked to establish whether there was any criminal wrongdoing in the management of staff at the company. In response to the evidence gathered, the company was formally charged over illegal overtime practices two months ago, which has resulted in today's fine (Friday 6 October).

The practice of overwork is not a phenomenon limited to Dentsu; public broadcaster NHK also disclosed earlier this week that a reporter died of overwork four years ago, clocking in 159 hours of overtime in a month before heart failure set in.

Dentsu, two years after the death of Takahashi, has received a small fine from a Tokyo court. The charge was overworking Takahashi and three other members of staff, it was in direct violation of labour laws. These three staff members reportedly logged between 3 hours and 19 hours over this limit over the period October to December 2015.

Japan Times reports that Tokyo Summary Court Judge Tsutomu Kikuchi said: “illegal long working hours were becoming the norm” at the ad network – one of the world’s largest advertising companies.

He added: “Overtime work without payment was also rampant [at Dentsu].”

Japan has a cap of 50 hours on monthly overtime in an attempt to cease overworking incidents.

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