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Termination of Employment Contracts for Assistant Language Teachers or “Guest Teachers” in Fukuoka

Guest Teachers to a Temp Agency

In February 2018 the Fukuoka Board of Education (“BoE”) adopted their new plan to outsource the teaching for Foreign Language Activities (“FLAs”) at elementary schools to a temp agency and to assign teachers to the schools. Taking charge of these classes alongside the regular class teachers had been Guest Teachers (“GTs”), who were searched and hired individually by each school, since 2007 when FLAs first began.

Photo: iStock/paylessimages

According to the article from the Nishinippon Shimbun morning edition dated May 17, 2018, due to the introduction of the new plan, the BoE seem to have terminated all the contracts with GTs, who number 120, at the end of the previous school year (April 2017 to March 2018) by not renewing them.

While some of these teachers are students, for many it is their main source of income. According to the article, one of the GTs, who has a wife as well as a daughter in elementary school, worked as a GT for about 10 years. Through the last school year, he taught 15 class periods per week and his total yearly income from the BoE was over 3 million yen.

Are the Terminations Legal?

There are potentially two legal points to pay attention to: (1) whether there are employment contracts between the BoE and GTs, and (2) if there are employment contracts, whether there are unfair refusals of contract renewals under Article 19 of Labor Contracts Act (No. 128 of 2007) (“Act”).

Regarding the first point, the BoE said that “it was never an employment relationship in the first place”, according to the article. They further explained that “GTs were guests after all, just like having someone who experienced the war come and give a talk for a Peace Studies lesson. The money was paid to them as a token of thanks”.

This is quite a surprising reply. While the former part is, depending on the circumstance, legally arguable, the latter part is utter nonsense in terms of comparing Guest Teachers and guest speakers for a Peace Studies lesson in parallel only because both of their titles contain the word “guest”.

Regarding the second point, although available information is limited, GTs who worked for a number of years such as the above person seem to have a good chance to claim their rights under Article 19 of the Act.

What’s Behind the Terminations?

The BoE mentioned the new curriculum guidelines coming into force in school year 2020 as a reason for the introduction of the new plan in the article.

However, what comes to my mind when reading this article is the so-called Year 2018 problem. This problem is about Article 18 of the Act which gives a right for fixed-term employees to request permanent contracts and named so because it is only triggered after 1 April 2018. Perhaps the BoE terminated the contracts at this timing to avoid the risk of being requested permanent contracts by GTs. I will not go further this point but would like my readers to know that fixed-term employees are more protected than before.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this article is accurate at the time of posting, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ. If you do require advice or wish to find out more about the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Text by: Atty. Atsushi Miyake of Miyake Law, Jul. 2018.
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Fukuoka City
Published: Jul 6, 2018 / Last Updated: Jul 14, 2020

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