Health Checks – They’re mandatory! Interac ordered to obey the law

Cross-posted from the General Union in Osaka:

5 Jul 2010
Health Checks – They’re mandatory!
Interac ordered to obey the law

Industrial Health & Safety Act
For many westerners, the idea of a state mandated health check smacks of a nanny state, and we are often reluctant to submit to the tests. While not all companies obey this law, the fact remains it is compulsory for all employees to have an annual health check under article 66 of the act.

We often receive enquiries about how to escape taking the annual check-up. The major reason given is privacy concerns. In the 1990s these concerns had merit. One well known case is that of a company employee who was diagnosed as being HIV positive as a result of the check-up. Rather than inform the employee, the testing company chose to disclose the information to the employer. The company then chose to terminate the employee under false pretenses while still hiding his HIV status.

Changing attitudes and the introduction of privacy laws in 2005 saw most of these issues resolved.

School Health & Safety Act
Looking at labor law stipulations in the light of the education law, state mandated health checks appear much more reasonable.

Concerned with the health of children and that of the general population, the education law states that all school employees must be checked for tuberculosis by x-ray. Pre-war Japan had a high prevalence of tuberculosis. Post-war times saw the numbers in decline but as in many countries it is on the increase again. In 1998 the rate of infection in Japan was more than 5 times that of the USA. The government reports that there are now more than 40,000 new cases of TB per year in Japan and that it claims about 2,700 lives. There are also increases in the number of children and university age students being infected.

Interac and other ALT companies
It is difficult to give a precise figure, but the number of ALTs in Japan is in the thousands. If we then include other teachers of at-risk students, the number may well increase to over 10,000. The majority are not tested for tuberculosis, thereby placing the health of both students and other teachers at risk.

As part of the General Union’s campaign to make Boards of Education and dispatch companies follow Education and Employment laws, Interac was recently found to be violating the law by not providing ALTs in Tokai city with health checks. As a result Interac was ordered to institute testing and it appears Interac is now rolling out a program for all ALTS to be tested but we are taking a wait and see approach to guage their commitment. Anecdotally, we know that in the past Interac had asked ALTs at some Boards of Education to take the tests but the company often failed to ensure the tests were actually taken.

ALTs should be hired directly
Health checks are another reason that we cannot place the education of Japan’s youth in the hands of private companies such as Interac. They cannot be relied upon to ensure the safety of students or workers. If all ALTs were directly hired their annual health checks would take place at the same time as their Japanese coworkers.

If you are concerned with your health and that of your students, contact us to find out more.

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