Japanese company issues public apology after employee goes to lunch three minutes early

Japanese company issues public apology after employee goes to lunch three minutes early

Woven into most full-time employment contracts you can get today is a detailed breakdown of your working hours. Nine to five is the most standard; but in recent times, that leaving time can be extended to half past five, or even six, sometimes. But even as you grumble about working unpaid overtime or complain about getting home at ungodly hours, you should thank your lucky stars that you don't work in Japan.

In Japan, there's a phrase - karoshi - that permeates the country's entire workforce. Translating literally to "death by overwork", it gives you a subtle hint as to the Japanese viewpoint on work ethic, and there are many horror tales of employees suffering emotional and physical breakdowns as a consequence of the Japanese work culture.

It's a policy that's come under scrutiny in nations overseas, and in the wake of this bizarre public apology, that scrutiny is only likely to intensify. A Japanese company has docked one of their employees pay and addressed the public in regret, after it emerged that he was taking his lunch break three minutes - 180 seconds - early.

The as-yet-unnamed worker, who is 64 years old, is said to have cost his company 78 minutes in productivity, with the behaviour reportedly happening 26 times in a six-month period. "The lunch break is from noon to 1 p.m. He left his desk before the break," said a spokesperson for the company.

Japanese news outlet the Asahi Broadcasting Corporation reported that the nefarious lunch plans were discovered when another employee happened to look out of the window at 11:57am, only to notice the worker leaving the office building for lunch. As for the man himself? He reportedly needed a "change of pace" from the company's normal work policy. That's proven to be a mistake.

"It’s deeply regrettable that this misconduct took place. We’re sorry," says an employee of the bureau, bowing his head for four seconds in shame, and it's also emerged that the man has been docked half a day's pay for his ill discipline. There's no word as yet on whether he returned to the office at one o'clock as was expected.

This is but one example of the karoshi practice in the workplace, with Japanese workers under extreme pressure to work long hours and push themselves to their emotional and physical limits for their work.

Back in July 2013, a woman by the name of Miwa Sado was found dead in her apartment in Tokyo, suffering what health officials referred to as congestive heart failure - her heart growing so week it could no longer pump the necessary blood around her body. Labour officials in Tokyo said she'd racked up an astonishing 159 hours and 37 minutes of overtime at work in the month up until her death.

While Japan are known around for their state-of-the-art, high-tech way of existence, this 64-year-old employee's story - alongside the tragic tale of Miwa Sado - shows that some of their work practices are in need of a tweak.