The government will submit a bill aimed at protecting freelance workers to the extraordinary Diet session to be held in the fall.
The planned new law will seek to improve the conditions of transactions in which freelancers are involved.
It will do so by requiring companies or organizations that assign freelancers work to make an appropriate payment, for example.
The government unveiled the outline of the bill and started a public comment process on the evening of Sept. 13.
Freelancers are self-employed workers, and they are often taken advantage of in their vulnerable positions.
For example, they often unwillingly accept disadvantageous contracts or have clients who don’t honor the contracts.
A government study in 2020 estimated there were around 4.62 million freelancers in Japan.
The outline of the bill defines freelancers as, “Business operators who are assigned outsourced work and who do not employ people.”
The new bill will require companies or organizations assigning freelancers work to explicitly state the work commissioned and the fee in writing, including in a document or an e-mail.
The new law will also require them to pay freelancers within 60 days of the freelancers having completed the work.
It will prohibit them from paying freelancers smaller fees than the amount they initially agreed upon or returning finished products that freelancers supplied when there is no fault with the work.
A law on subcontractors already prohibits companies with a capital stock of more than 10 million yen ($70,000) from doing these things.
The law is designed to stop larger companies from taking advantage of their superior positions in transactions with their subcontractors, which are midsize or smaller companies, as well as freelancers.
The planned new law will extend the same requirements to companies with a capital stock of 10 million yen or less.
The new law will also ask companies or organizations to take measures regarding work-related harassment.
Company employees are already protected by an anti-harassment law, which took effect in April.
The new law will protect freelancers with similar measures.
It will also ask companies or organizations to be considerate of freelancers who combine work with childrearing or care for aging parents.
The government will instruct or advise companies or organizations if they are in violation of the new law.
According to a survey on freelancers conducted by Rengo (the Japanese Trade Union Confederation) in 2021, the two major problems, each experienced by around 30 percent of the respondents, were “delayed payments” and “clients changing what freelancers are asked to do without the freelancers’ consent.”