Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
Are you in the market for a job in Japan? How about some extra freelance work or a side job?
A while back I registered with one of the many companies that matches students with foreign language teachers, and I finally accepted a potential Skype teaching job they wanted to give me. (I’m not super excited about using Skype to teach, but I haven’t actually tried it yet, so prolly should do that before deciding it’s not for me.)
So, this company emailed me a contract, and I read it through, noticing a few strange (illegal sounding) points. I did a second of research and found this site (Labor Laws in Japan), where number four, mentioning prohibition of penalties, was clearly unlawful.
It is not easy for me to confront anyone and the woman communicating with me about the job was obviously not the one who made the contract or was trying to cheat me. I tried to remain calm while I politely emailed her the articles and points in the contract I found to be illegal under Article 16 of the Labor Standards Law.
I didn’t use the contract as an excuse to turn down the job immediately or say mean things to the probably underpaid hardworking employee I got it from. I think that’s not the type of thing I’d normally do – negotiating or being diplomatic is more my style. It doesn’t always work out for me, which is sort of the reason I’m not an ALT anymore…
When I got the reply, it was really understanding. She had talked to Mr. Boss about it, then they decided I didn’t need to sign the contract, no big deal. They just asked that I try to give a couple weeks notice if I resign.
One thing to remember here is that contracts can both protect us and hurt us. If we have a problem with a contract, signing it anyway and hoping everything will be fine is sort of a bad idea. It’s nice that editing a contract is sometimes an option, or at least stating in writing that you don’t agree to certain points of the contract but the rest is fine.
To be honest, the best freelance jobs I have don’t have any contract. One of them is through a small company that had me sign a simple contract (don’t steal our clients, mostly) about six months after I started. Most contracts are required because they are for full time work with someone with a sponsored work visa, and these can protect your ability to stay in Japan. If it’s one lesson a week, as long as you trust the person paying you (and are getting paid), there’s no reason for it.