No longer 'family-friendly,' Dentsu forms commission to stamp out suicide

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Dentsu's Tokyo headquarters
Dentsu's Tokyo headquarters

The body intends to create a better working environment with input from junior employees and external consultants.

Following a recent ruling that found workplace pressure at Dentsu partly responsible for the suicide of an employee, the company this week dropped its "family-friendly" certification, which it received from the government in 2007. Efforts to reduce overtime are an important consideration for the government in making the award.

Dentsu also announced that it has established a reforms commission that aims to prevent further incidents of karoshi (death from overwork) and improve the overall working environment.

The Dentsu Working Environment Reforms Commission will be led by Tadashi Ishii, president and CEO, and consist of eight members including executive officers responsible for HR, corporate strategy planning, sales, media relations and solutions.

According to a statement from Dentsu, the commission will create "a comprehensive reform plan to prevent repeated overwork issues, including business planning and a comprehensive review of the organisation its personnel system and business flow, and implement various specific actions."

The statement says Dentsu is conducting an independent review into its labor practices to ensure they comply with the law, using an independent legal firm that has not had prior involvement with the company's HR or labor practices. The company recently confirmed a change to its overtime policy, consisting of a relatively small reduction to the monthly limit, and a daily 10 p.m. cut-off time for those working outside office hours.

In what seems a much-needed move to give younger staff more of a voice, Dentsu will also establish four teams to give recommendations for change based on the opinions of junior employees and middle managers. External experts will aid the reform plan, Dentsu said.

Dentsu's chief spokesman Shusaku Kannan said the company was not able to comment on the status of the managers of the suicide victim, Matsuri Takahashi, due to the fact that an investigation into the situation is still in progress. Dentsu said it is cooperating fully with the authorities and that "any disciplinary measures deemed appropriate to any executive officers or employees will be made rigorously and announced separately."

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