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On Getting Paid

Tuesday's Lifeline column in The Japan Times featured a situation that illustrated just how fly-by-night teaching English in Japan can be:

Reader TS writes: "I return to the U.S. next week and I was supposed to receive my final pay check from a really bad ALT company . . . last week, but did not receive payment. I've called them but the secretaries say that the people in charge are not in the office. I called my direct contact and he has yet to call me back.

"I've read on the Internet that with your last pay check this company will try and avoid paying you since the pay date is so close to when you have to return to your home country, and that when you return they will try and avoid all contact with you. I'm going to keep calling them, but somehow I worry that it is futile."

The article goes on to explain the hoops you have to jump through to get paid: send a letter through registered mail and wait for a reply. If that doesn't work, the next step is to go to a Labor Standards Office and have them call your employer on your behalf. Barring that, you may then need to hire a lawyer.

One crucial piece of information missing from the article is the name of the "really bad ALT company." While knowing what your options are when it comes to making sure you get paid is inportant, an ounce of prevention--knowing who the shyster schools are so you can avoid them--would save teachers a lot of grief. Fortunately, I'm told by a reader that the offending school is Japan Advanced Labour Staff Services (JALSS). You can read about them here and here.

Using the poor economy as an excuse to not pay staff is no excuse at all. The fact that non-payment appears to be common in eikaiwa should send teachers, prospective and veteran alike, running for the door. The moral of the story is this: If you quit your job, don't make any plans to immediately return home if you want to see your final paycheck.


Before you go home, STORM the head office and don't leave until you've got your money. Take a Japanese translator. Even call a newspaper company.

If you go back to your home country, that's it.

It's best to just tell them you're staying in the country and ask them to pay you as usual. NOVA used to (maybe still does!) take out 10% of your final salary if you checked the "leaving the country" box which they may or may not have used to pay outstanding taxes.

Thanks Shawn for posting this.

If it is Jalss we're talking about here, I am shocked to see they are still in business.

@ Junken master

That's a great piece of advice, but there's no guarantee that someone in charge will even be in the office. Even investigators from the Labor Standards Office are having trouble tracking down management:

" Investigators from the Labor Standards Office and other government agencies have told me personally that they cannot get hold of management even to investigate the many unpaid wage claims." (Louis Carlet)

I have a question for you guys... would it be useful, when dealing with a company that has an history of not paying employees in time or at all, to get a promise of payment in writing?


It has been sign, sealed and stamped, but that does not stop JALSS from paying. The owner actually tried to FORGE a copy of a contract to say an employee they fired was hired on a monthly basis. Needless to say, the judge realized it was not the actual contract and JALSS lost the case (in the Tokyo emplyment tribunal that is).

Good advice above. Report the story to Labor Standards and any other publications and websites that you can, and keep hassling the company about it. Don't just call them up, actually go in to the office and speak to them face-to-face. Pressure them into calling this guy to get you the money, and keep going in one day after the other until they wilt. If you back down in this, you're stuffed and you won't see your money.

JALSS Corp. has positions for Ele, Jr. and High school and conversation schools teachers/managers. Register now, visa sponsorship, housing and transportation allowance, bonus and paid vacation FT 230.000 to 270.000 yen and part time 190.000 to 220.000 yen a month. Also Some contracts are direct hire with schools, Y300.000/month to Y430.000/month. 3 to 5 years contracts. From April 2010. (posted: 2010-04-04)

how could they lie about a wonderful place like this???

So here is the funny thing. I work at a certain west coast Canadian GEOS. We were told to "start posting as much as possible" on our school facebook account. Seems someone on this board struck a nerve when they wrote about no action on GEOS Canada facebook accounts, missing newsletters, etc. (which was true). This supposedly came from someone at the top who wanted to "show the world we everything is okay at GEOS Canada."

You guys really do have an effect on here. We have heard lots about you at my school. Some do not like the posters, but the average worker thinks it is all good fun and you people are mostly right. Cheers!

Do take into account that salaries paid overseas are potentially subject to higher rates. If someone indicates that at the time of slary payment (not the final date of employment) then they are subject to non-resident tax. Non-resident tax is 20%. Check National Tax Agency rule No.12006 (A Tax on the income of an individual as a nonresident in Japan for tax purposes).

Also, companies may deduct the cost of the international bank transfer or the drawing up of a cheque.

Best advice would be as already mentioned - stay in Japan until everything is finalised. It also would be advisable to do the research.

Finally. It an employees legal right to request, and be paid their final salary within 7 days of the completion of their employment. See Article 23 of the Labour Standards Act.

Don't hang out in Japan or Eikaiwa world for peanuts. Forget the bag of candy, and walk out, asap.

Days, weeks, months in the World of Performing Monkey Circus Act, for what?

Take the hit, wash you hands of it, and move on, as a matter of urgency.

The problem with just giving up and going home is that I think a lot of people are counting on that extra 200-250,000 yen on the way home. That could be enough to cover a plane ticket or a few month's rent back home.

When I decide to go home, I'm counting on my final paycheck and my rent deposit. If I didn't get that (I have no reason to think I wouldn't, but IF), that's over 300,000 yen I'd be missing. That's hardly peanuts. Unless you're a giant, unempathetic, overly wealthy a-hole.

The prospect of not getting paid and losing 250-300,000 makes joining a union good value for money.
These companies don't (can't) rip off the last pay packet of union members.

And for those who want to bash the union(s) try helping someone to get their last pay first.

Sure, then the union can rip you off for years to come like the schools do. Trust me, they are no better. Unions are only political propaganda machines...

Hi again,

I'm the third poster from the top (decided to register).

" Unions are only political propaganda machines...". This inference is problematic. Sure, the fact that certain unions, here or elsewhere, have a strong ideological agenda can't be denied. But to say that they are only propaganda machines...

I had very positive experiences with Unions.

I'm not naive and I do concede that Unions are not miracles solutions. But I would rather turn to a union, hoping they will be able to do something about a particular situation, than try to deal with JALSS' management myself and hit a wall.

Unfortunately I had very negative experiences with unions. Most have lost their way (original reason for being) and seem more interested in grabbing union dues to support a one-sided political machine. Unfortunately many union members have to pay unions dues that go to political parties they do not support. So much for democracy.

Go to for a detailed account of North American unions. Can't vouch for Japanese unions thouh.

^^^^ Thanks for the link!

I'm checking out the website right now.

"Telling the other side of the GEOS story"

Japan Times
May 25, 2010

I've had terrible experiences with unions in Japan. I don't know how things are now, but when I was a member, it was nothing more than politics and the fact that they used cases for PR to get more people to join. I saw the crap job they did at handling the grievances with Nova union employees and I even saw the crap job they did at handling themselves against G-Com. They essentially made a deal wth G-Com that they wouldn't run their mouths about their rights if they agreed to take back all the unionized members of Nova. They tried to run their shop like a law firm, not as a way to get actual benefits that employees wanted or were interested in. Ugh. My disgust has my blood pressure up.

I had a similar experience with W5SS. I organised a Citibank account so they could pay me salary into that and I could access it while I was out of Japan.
When I hadn't being paid a couple of days after pay day I contacted the office. The managers kept saying they were looking into it. When I mentioned I would talk to some one from the BofE the guy who runs the ALT program contacted me and explained it had being put into my old account.
I had left my pass book with a friend who could withdraw the money. It was there but wasn't depoisted until after I had enquired where my pay was.

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