Frequently Asked Questions – What Employers in Japan Need to Know About Employee “Stress Check” Requirements

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  • Frequently Asked Questions – What Employers in Japan Need to Know About Employee “Stress Check” Requirements

    By Hiromasa OgawaDarcy Kishida, and Moeko Takeda


Japan has the highest suicide rate among the G7 countries, and some of those suicides are due to work-related stress. The government’s own statistics show an increasing number of work-related mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, and the COVID-19 pandemic may have made the situation worse. In addition, employers are starting to realize that healthy workers boost the company’s productivity and overall business performance. For these reasons, Japanese law requires that certain companies offer their employees the opportunity to take a “Stress Check” designed to identify work-related mental health issues and address those issues as early and as effectively as possible. Here we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the Stress Check requirements.

What is a Stress Check?

Companies in Japan with at least 50 employees at a given workplace are required to offer their employees the opportunity to complete an annual Stress Check questionnaire designed to ascertain their mental health.

My company has more than 50 employees, but they work in different offices across Japan. Does the Stress Check requirement apply?

Only if there are at least 50 employees working in the same location. Otherwise, no. For example, a single workplace with 50 employees would be covered under the Stress Check law, but two offices with 25 employees each would not. The Stress Check requirement would apply to the 70 employees at a company’s Tokyo headquarters, but not to the 30 employees at its Nagoya office.

We have a large number of part-time and temporary workers. Are they counted for purposes of the 50-employee requirement?


No one in my office is talking about the Stress Check or asking for a questionnaire? Does that mean we don’t have to worry about it?

No. Employers are required to offer the Stress Check questionnaire to their employees even if no one requests it.

Is the Stress Check a psychological exam?

Not exactly, at least not on the employer’s side. Here in a nutshell are the steps involved in a Stress Check:

● The employer first needs to retain the services of a doctor or other qualified health-care professional (“doctor”) who will help the employer comply with the Stress Check requirements.
●  The employer must provide its employees with the opportunity to complete a Stress Check questionnaire.
●  The doctor then reviews the questionnaire at the employer’s expense.
● If the results raise sufficient concerns over the employee’s stress level or mental health, the doctor may recommend that the employee undergo a mental-health evaluation.
● If the employee would like to follow that recommendation, the employer is required to pay for the evaluation.

If a company has to pay for mental-health evaluations, shouldn’t it be able to know why the evaluations are necessary?

Yes. The law tries to balance the needs of the company with the employees’ privacy interests by permitting companies to request access to the questionnaire results. The idea is that employers who must pay for an evaluation should be able to confirm that the employee in question satisfies the eligibility requirements for that evaluation. However, if the employee doesn’t request an evaluation, the questionnaire results remain strictly confidential.

Only the employee and the reviewing doctor have access to the questionnaire results (doctors disclose results directly to employees). The employer will not get a copy unless the employee consents. However, employers can obtain questionnaire results without consent if the results do not identify the employee. If they choose, companies can use these anonymous results to make improvements to the workplace.

Does the employer need to do anything else?

If the examining doctor suggests ways to improve the employee’s mental health, the employer is required to take reasonable measures to do so. These steps may include reducing the employee’s scheduled working hours and overtime, limiting business trips, and lightening the employee’s workload.

Will the government provide the Stress Check questionnaire?

Yes and no. The government has prepared long and short versions of a multiple-choice questionnaire that companies may use, and the majority of companies have indicated that they will use one of them. Employers are free to come up with their own questionnaires. In practice, however, employers have little incentive to do so. Why? Because using the government’s questionnaire ensures compliance with the Stress Check requirements. It also eliminates the burden of having to prepare one from scratch.

My company operates in a notoriously high-pressure industry and we would like to do everything possible to protect our employees’ mental health. Can we use a more detailed Stress Check questionnaire than the government’s?

Yes, but the safest approach is to simply augment the government’s questionnaire with additional questions.

What must the questionnaire contain?

The questionnaire needs to cover three main areas: the causes of work-related stress, the physical condition of employees suffering from work-related stress, and the level of support from coworkers.

Can employers require employees to complete the questionnaire?

No, the questionnaire is purely voluntary. This obviously means that employers are prohibited from making the questionnaire a requirement in their rules of employment. It also means that employers can’t penalize employees who: (i) choose not to take part in the Stress Check; (ii) either request or refuse a mental-health evaluation based on the results of the questionnaire; or (iii) refuse to disclose the questionnaire results.

How does the government know that companies are properly conducting Stress Checks?

Employers are required to file an annual Stress Check report with the applicable labor office.

What are the consequences of non-compliance?

Failure to file the annual Stress Check report carries a maximum fine of JPY 500,000.

This all sounds a bit complicated and messy. Can’t we just outsource this?

Yes. Employers can choose to retain an outside company to handle all or part of their Stress Check obligations.



If you have questions about this topic, please contact any of the authors directly or our firm’s Litigation Practice Group through the contact information available on our firm’s website.


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