JILPT Research Report No.205
Comparative Legal Study of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Systems:
Status and Issues of Japanese Law in View of Current German, French, US, and UK Law

September 15, 2020

Summary

Research Objective

One of the main goals of the Action Plan for the Realization of Work Style Reform (March 2017) is “development of work environments that facilitate flexible work styles” such as employed type telework, non-employed type telework(employment-like working styles)and secondary or multiple jobs. Workers’ compensation insurance coverage of persons engaged in these work styles is an important policy issue in Japan now and is expected to remain so in the future. In this political movement, the objective of this study is to track in detail the current status of workers’ compensation insurance legislation in Germany, France, the United States and the United Kingdom, and to clarify the international position of Japanese law pertaining to the insurance system, and future issues to be examined, by comparing these nations’ situations with that of Japan.

With regard to international comparative research on workers’ compensation insurance systems, one previous study is Research Report No. 148: International Comparative Study of Workers’ Compensation Systems (2002), issued by the Japan Institute of Labor (JIL), the predecessor of the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training (JILPT). Because considerable time has passed ever since, the current study is significant as an updated version of that report.

Research Method

Literature survey(Japan, Germany, France, US, and UK)

Interview survey(Germany and US)

Key Findings

  1. In cases of accidents covered by insurance, such as occupational accidents, affected workers who perform secondary or multiple jobs, in Germany, France and the US state of Michigan, the amount paid is calculated based on the aggregations of earnings from main and secondary jobs. As a result, industrial accident compensation benefits are calculated based on the aggregation of earnings of all the jobs. Meanwhile, in UK, industrial accident compensation insurance (disablement pension) is a fixed-amount (uniform) benefit, so such aggregation of earnings is not an issue.
  2. In the workers’ compensation insurance systems of other countries compared in this study, for workers who perform secondary or multiple jobs, if causal relationships between work and injury or illness can be affirmed when the work-related burdens of main and secondary jobs are combined, these total work-related burdens are not treated as specific accidents covered by industrial accident compensation insurance.
  3. In Germany, France, some US states, and UK, lists of occupational illnesses have been created, but neurological and cardiovascular ailments due to long working hours, and mental illnesses due to psychological strain, are not included on these lists.
  4. In Germany and France, judicial precedents and legislation have recently clarified to some degree the criteria for determining when occupational accidents and so forth resulting from employed type telework are to be acknowledged.
  5. In Germany, France and US, business proprietors too can voluntarily join the workers’ compensation insurance system as individuals, regardless of the type of business they are engaged in. Therefore, in these countries it is possible for even independent self-employed persons who work without employment contracts to be protected under these systems through voluntary participation, at least as long as they pay the insurance premiums themselves. Also, in France, since 2016 if an independent self-employed person who has been working on a digital platform that meets certain requirements voluntarily joins the workers’ compensation insurance system, the platform operator is obliged to pay the premiums incurred.

Policy Implications

  1. In Japan, in principle, aggregation of earnings was not permitted in the calculation of industrial accident compensation insurance (basic daily benefit amount) for workers who perform secondary or multiple jobs (multiple-job workers), but the March 2020 revision of the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act introduced legislative measures (Art. 8 Para. 3 of the revised Act) to permit it. As a result, it can be said that Japanese law is in line with international standards on this issue.
  2. In addition, the revision of the Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act in March 2020 introduced legislative measures for recognizing work-related accidents (multiple job-related accidents) by calculating the total work-related burdens on workers with multiple jobs (Art. 7 Para. 1 item 2 of the revised Act, etc.). In this respect, unlike in other countries, neurological and cardiovascular ailments and mental illnesses due to psychological strain have traditionally been considered work-related illnesses(Ordinance for Enforcement of the Labor Standards Act, appended table 1-2, Items 8 and 9), and with regard to recognition of these illnesses, Japan’s legal system can be considered a unique one, in which quantitative work-related burden indicators such as the number of overtime hours have played an important role as administrative recognition criteria.
  3. Regarding employed type telework, the number of teleworkers is expected to increase due to advancement in ICT and the spread of COVID-19. With regard to recognition of occupational accidents such as injuries and illness during telework, based on precedents or future cases, clarification of assessment criteria through drawing up of guidelines and so forth is a vital and urgent issue.
  4. Regarding coverage under the workers’ compensation insurance system of workers without employment contracts, such as independent self-employed persons, it is necessary to consider expanding the scope of the current special enrollment insurance system, and examine whether it is appropriate to maintain the current procedures for enrolling in group insurance.
  5. With regard to the above, especially the points raised in 1, 2 and 4, as legislative policy advances, the noted “phenomenon of its own development of the workers’ compensation insurance system” is expected to become even more pronounced, and it is necessary to discuss and examine the present-day significance of the accident compensation liability of employers stipulated by the Labor Standards Law and the legal character of the workers’ compensation insurance system.

Policy Contribution

This research could be applied to consideration of legislative policies regarding the workers’ compensation insurance system by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s Labor Standards Bureau (Workers’ Compensation Administration Division) and other bodies.

Main Text (only available in Japanese)

Research Category

Commissioned Research: “Workers’ Compensation Insurance Systems in Countries Outside Japan”

Authors

Dr. YAMAMOTO Yota
Vice Senior Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
KOHNO Natsuki
Associate Professor, Meiji Gakuin University
Dr. JIGAMI Ryosuke
Associate Professor, Osaka University
UEDA Tatsuko
Professor, Doshisha University

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