Dentsu's dark days continue with second Labor Bureau raid

Investigators aim to determine whether staff routinely worked beyond the legal overtime limit.

A team of inspectors from Tokyo's Labor Bureau yesterday descended on Dentsu's Tokyo headquarters and regional branches for a second time as part of an ongoing investigation into the conditions that led to the suicide of an employee last year.

The first surprise raid took place in mid-October. According to reports, the latest raid, by a team of around 90 inspectors, was also unannounced and covered offices in Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya as well as Tokyo. It follows the finding that certain employees put in more overtime than they had agreed to. The Labor Bureau aims to determine whether Dentsu encouraged a culture in which employees routinely exceeded their maximum overtime limit.

The death of the employee, Matsuri Takahashi, and the subsequent investigation, have sent a shockwave through one of Japan's most powerful companies. Dentsu recently unveiled a plan to reduce its monthly overtime limit for staff by five hours, from 70 to 65. The policy includes lights being switched off at 10 p.m. Dentsu's official working day is seven hours.

While a step in the right direction, observers in Japan have noted that a five-hour reduction is relatively small. It is also understood that lights are switched back on at 5 am, making it theoretically possible for employees to continue to work extremely long days unless strictly monitored.

Further changes are expected, however. Last week, Dentsu announced the launch of a commission to improve working conditions for staff based on expert third-party consultation and feedback from junior to mid-level staff.

Dentsu has said it is unable to comment on the situation while the investigation is underway.

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