A Canadian father who claims to have been bullied and fired by his Japanese employer after he tried to claim a paternity leave appeared on Wednesday in a Tokyo court to start his case against the company.
It is the second case of paternal harassment to be heard in Japan in recent weeks, casting a rare focus on the issue in a country struggling with one of the lowest birth rates in the world.
Glen Wood, 49, a Japanese resident for three decades, worked at Mitsubishi UFJ broker Morgan Stanley Securities when his son was born prematurely in October 2015.
Wood says he applied for paternity leave before his son was born in Nepal, where his partner worked, seeking to exercise a right guaranteed by Japanese law.
But, he says, the company dragged on and even ran a DNA test to prove its relationship with his son.
“I knew it was kind of an old-fashioned company, but I was still very surprised, even when it was an emergency and my son was in intensive care, because they wouldn't let me take paternity leave. , “He told AFP before the hearing Wednesday.
"I think it was really considered an act of treason for a man to take a paternity leave," he added.
It wasn't until 2015 Christmas Day that he received approval to go out and see his son.
He returned to work in March from 2016 after taking his baby to Japan, but claims that he was subsequently dropped at work, which he said contributed to his depression and six months sick leave.
When he returned, the company put him on unpaid leave before firing him.
Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities has denied any harassment and said it supports employees' rights to take legally required parental leave.
But the case, first presented in 2017, comes at a time of great interest in the question of so-called patahara.
Last month, a Tokyo court held the first hearing in the case of a Japanese man suing sportswear maker Asics for allegations that he was effectively demoted after taking a paternity leave.
By law, Japan offers relatively generous parental leave. Both parents can take a year off, with additional six month renewable periods if a nursery location is not available.
But only six per cent of parents have parental leave, compared with more than 80 per cent of mothers who use allowance beyond the mandatory eight weeks after birth.
The disparity, activists say, is partly due to pressure from employers and a society that values long working hours.
Among the small number of men on paternity leave in Japan, more than 70% are absent for less than two weeks.
The Japanese government recently announced that it expects to increase the proportion of men who take paternity leave to 13% by 2020.
There were only a handful of lawsuits filed in Japan by alleged patahara victims, with judges tending to favor employers because of the difficulty in proving that mistreatment was triggered by farewell officials, lawyers say.