Do foreign companies have a lot of overtime work? The difference from Japanese companies is explained with data.


  • Career Advice

Do foreign-affiliated companies require a lot of overtime and hard work?

What is the difference between a foreign-affiliated company and a Japanese-affiliated company?

For those who have these questions, this article introduces the following.

  • How foreign-affiliated companies handle and think about overtime work
  • Reasons why it is said that there is a lot of overtime work at foreign-affiliated companies
  • How to pay overtime at foreign-affiliated companies

Let's take a closer look below.

Do foreign companies work a lot of overtime?

The frequency of overtime work in foreign-affiliated companies varies by company and industry. In general, foreign-affiliated companies that are results-oriented and often project-based tend to have intense workloads and are prone to overtime.

In addition, due to global operations, communication with different countries and regions and adjustment of time zones may be necessary, which may also contribute to overtime work.

On the other hand, however, the work environment has been improving in recent years as work-life balance has become a trend, and efforts to control overtime work are increasing.

Therefore, while it is difficult to generalize about the frequency of overtime work at foreign-affiliated companies, an increasing number of companies are striving to reduce overtime hours due to growing public concern about workers' rights and improvements in the working environment.


Foreign-affiliated and Japanese-affiliated companies differ in their approach to overtime work

There is a big difference in the way foreign-affiliated companies and Japanese-affiliated companies think about and work overtime. In general, foreign-affiliated companies tend to emphasize a results-oriented approach, and work performance and efficiency are the criteria for evaluation. As a result, they require efficient completion of work within a set time frame, and in many cases overtime work is not recommended.

In Japanese-affiliated companies, on the other hand, long working hours are the norm, and the evaluation is often based on the hours worked rather than the results of the work. Especially in a corporate culture where lifetime employment and seniority are emphasized, communication and meetings with superiors and colleagues tend to be frequent, resulting in a lot of overtime work. In fact, a survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare shows that supervisors tend to have a positive image of those who work overtime, such as "working hard" and "having a strong sense of responsibility.

However, even in foreign-affiliated companies, depending on the industry and type of work, it is inevitable that overtime work will continue to be required due to the intense workload during busy periods. In addition, because work cultures differ by country and region, some companies, even foreign-affiliated companies, do have to work overtime.

How foreign companies handle overtime

Foreign-affiliated companies generally place a high priority on efficient work styles, and therefore, employees are treated in a way that wasteful meetings and long hours of overtime should be reduced as much as possible, and work performance and efficiency should be valued. As a result, employees go about their daily work with the goal of achieving high results in a short amount of time.

Because of these characteristics, many foreign-affiliated companies have introduced flextime systems. Employees can flexibly adjust their working hours according to their work and make adjustments so that they can always perform at their best.


Overtime pay is available.

Differences can also be seen in the way overtime pay is handled between foreign-affiliated and Japanese-affiliated companies.

Specifically, foreign-affiliated companies tend to strictly adhere to labor laws and regulations and are more thorough in their management of working hours and overtime. Therefore, in most cases, overtime pay is given for work that exceeds legal working hours.

On the other hand, Japanese-affiliated companies, as mentioned above, often value "how long you work" and tend to pay overtime in a lump sum. In particular, in startups and venture companies that have only just been established, it is common for the culture and environment to be such that "overtime work is unavoidable because there are few people," and there are a certain number of companies that do not provide overtime pay.

Three reasons why foreign companies are said to have a lot of overtime work

The following are some of the reasons why people say that "foreign-affiliated companies often require overtime and hard work."

  1. Often work in small teams
  2. High individual goal setting
  3. Workload associated with a results-oriented approach

Let's take a closer look below.

1. Many work in small teams

In foreign-affiliated companies, work is often done in small teams, with an emphasis on efficiency. In a small team, the scope of work each member is responsible for is broader, which can increase individual responsibility and workload. As a result, overtime is often required as projects progress and deadlines loom. Especially during critical phases of a project, long working hours may be unavoidable because of the need to carry out work with a limited number of members.

2. High individual goal setting

Foreign-affiliated companies often set high goals for individual employees. This is because individual performance is directly related to the company's overall performance, and it is necessary for each employee to achieve high performance. In order to achieve high goals, it is difficult to complete work within normal working hours, which may result in overtime work.

In addition, because foreign-affiliated firms are strictly performance-based, many employees work long hours voluntarily in order to achieve their own goals. The pressure to achieve high goals will often lead to a high level of overtime work.

3. Workload associated with results-oriented approach

As mentioned earlier, foreign-affiliated firms are strictly results-oriented. This is because each employee's performance is at the center of evaluation and directly linked to promotion and compensation. In order to achieve results, employees are often set high goals and the workload required to achieve those goals increases.

This results-oriented culture puts strong pressure on individual employees, who often work longer hours as a result. For example, as projects progress and deadlines loom, additional work is required to achieve results in a short period of time, which naturally leads to overtime work.

Another factor that leads to overtime work is the intense competition with colleagues and supervisors and the need to work long hours in order to achieve superior results.

Caution! 5 Cases of Foreign Companies Not Paying Overtime

Some foreign companies may take measures to avoid paying overtime. Be aware of the following cases

  1. give everyone a job title
  2. use an annual salary system as a shield
  3. Manage working hours with remote work
  4. Introduce fixed overtime pay
    Make it difficult to report overtime work as = lack of competence

Each case is explained in detail below.

1. Assigning positions to all employees

In some foreign-affiliated companies, there are cases where overtime pay is avoided by giving all employees job titles. For example, by giving everyone a title such as "manager" or "leader," it may be possible to legally treat them as managers and avoid the obligation to pay overtime. By taking advantage of such laws, it is possible to legally avoid paying overtime even if the employee is not actually performing the duties of a managerial position.

2. Using the annual salary system as a shield

Many foreign companies have introduced an annual salary system, and in some cases, this annual salary system can be used to avoid paying overtime.

Under the annual salary system, the annual compensation is predetermined and may be interpreted as including overtime in addition to the monthly salary. As a result, additional overtime pay may not be paid no matter how long the employee actually works.

Some companies explicitly state that a certain number of hours of overtime is included in the annual salary. In this case, there is no legal problem, so be sure to check this when finding a job or changing jobs.

3. Remote work to manage working hours

In foreign companies that have introduced remote work, the management of working hours can be ambiguous. Remote work makes it difficult for supervisors and managers to grasp the actual working hours because employees work from home, cafes, or other locations. Therefore, despite working long hours, companies may not recognize overtime work, or if they do, it may not be reported. As a result, there are cases where accurate overtime wages are not paid.

4. Introduction of fixed overtime pay

Many companies have introduced a fixed overtime pay system. Fixed overtime pay is a system in which a fixed amount of overtime is included in the salary in advance. Under this system, a fixed amount of overtime is paid for a certain number of hours, and no overtime is paid even if overtime is worked within those hours.

For example, if overtime pay is fixed at 20 hours per month, overtime will not be paid unless it exceeds that amount.

Some companies also have a policy of not paying additional overtime even if the actual hours worked exceed these fixed hours. However, if the fixed overtime hours are exceeded, the workers should keep in mind that they are obligated to pay the excess amount.

This is especially important in Japan (see below), where monthly overtime hours are often high.

Reference: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, "Current Status of Overtime Work in Japan".


5. Make it difficult to report overtime work as a lack of ability.

In some foreign-affiliated companies, overtime work itself is considered to indicate a worker's lack of ability or efficiency, creating an atmosphere that makes it difficult to report overtime work. In this culture, workers avoid reporting overtime, resulting in a situation where overtime is not paid. This problem is especially common in companies with a strong meritocracy.


When working for a foreign-affiliated company, it is important to thoroughly check the work rules and labor contract in light of these cases. You should also consider consulting with the Labor Standards Supervision Office or a lawyer if necessary.

Safe to Know! Steps to claim overtime pay at a foreign company

The procedure for claiming overtime pay in a foreign company is as follows

  1. Sending a notice
  2. Settlement of overtime pay
  3. Negotiate with the company
  4. Labor Tribunal or lawsuit

The following is an explanation of each procedure.

Sending a written notice

First, a formal notice should be sent to the company when filing a claim for overtime pay. This notice must include the following information

Your name, department, and contact information
The purpose of the claim and the reason for it
Specific overtime hours and dates of overtime
The total amount of overtime you are seeking

It is important that the notice be in writing and that a copy be kept. In addition, the method of sending the notice should be by content-certified mail, which can be used as evidence. It is important that the contents of the written notice be clear and specific, and that the company can easily confirm the contents.

Settlement of Overtime Pay

After sending the notice, wait for a response from the company. If the company agrees to pay the overtime, settlement of the overtime will be made. When settling the account, please note the following points

  • Confirm that the amount to be paid is the same as the amount stated in the notice.
  • Confirm the payment method (bank transfer, etc.)
  • Confirm the timing of payment

If a company refuses to pay overtime wages, or if the amount offered is inappropriate, consider consulting the Labor Standards Inspection Office. The Labor Standards Inspection Office is an organization that protects the rights of workers, and will provide guidance and conduct investigations into companies as necessary. You should also consult a lawyer and consider legal proceedings as an option.

Negotiations with the company

The next step is to negotiate directly with the company. If the company has a labor union, the union may be able to provide support.

It is also advisable to consult a lawyer who is familiar with labor issues for advice on how to proceed with negotiations. In negotiations, it is important to calmly discuss the issues based on the facts and find a solution.

Labor Tribunal or Lawsuit

If negotiations with the company are unsuccessful, a labor tribunal or lawsuit may be considered as a last resort. A labor tribunal is one of the procedures for simple dispute resolution by the court, and can be expected to resolve disputes quickly.

On the other hand, litigation is a formal legal procedure and takes more time and costs more.

Generally, whichever method you choose, you will need the assistance of an attorney. This is because, with the help of an expert, you will have a better chance of successfully claiming overtime pay by having the proper evidence and making a legally valid claim.


As you can see, it is important to take the proper steps when filing a claim for overtime pay with a foreign company. By preparing well in advance and having all the necessary information in place, the claim process can proceed smoothly.

Risks associated with overtime claims

It is important to note that there are risks associated with claiming overtime pay, including

  • You may not be able to stay at the company
  • You will be encouraged to resign.

Each risk is explained below.

Difficulty in staying at the company

One of the major risks when claiming overtime pay is that the workplace atmosphere may deteriorate, making it difficult to stay at the company. In particular, if your supervisor or coworkers view your claim negatively, relationships may become strained. As a result, team cooperation may become more difficult and work-related support may decrease. This situation can also increase emotional stress and decrease work motivation.

Advancement of resignation recommendation.

Another risk is that the company may offer you a severance package. For example, when you file a claim for overtime pay, the company may find it difficult to maintain a relationship with you and recommend that you resign. Such problems are especially likely to occur in companies that have a limited understanding of workers' rights.

Although a resignation recommendation is not a direct dismissal, it is often a strong pressure and can be emotionally taxing. Therefore, it is important to consider in advance how to respond to a resignation recommendation.

Use a recruitment agency if you want to find a good job in a good foreign company!

As mentioned earlier in this article, some foreign-affiliated companies use all kinds of tricks to refuse to pay overtime. In many cases, foreign-affiliated companies treat their employees well, but there is also such a risk.

However, if you consult with a recruitment agent who knows many foreign-affiliated companies, you can easily avoid such risks.

For example, at United World, which specializes in recruiting for foreign-affiliated companies, dedicated career advisors provide counseling and introduce jobs that match the needs of the consultant.

If you want to minimize the risk of failure in your job search, United World is the place for you.

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