Q. Do work-related phone calls during lunchtime fall under work hours?

Q. I am required to pick up work-related phone calls in the office during lunch break. Do these phone calls fall under work hours?

A. The working hours stipulated in Article 32 of the Labor Standards Act are the hours that can be evaluated objectively as the time when the actions of the worker are under the supervision of the employer. One of the criteria is whether or not freedom from work is guaranteed based on judicial precedents.

In this case, employees are on phone duty at lunchtime as instructed by the company. If it appears that there is little chance of a call coming in, it is more likely that they will be considered free from work rather than under command. Otherwise, that time will be considered as part of their working hours.

The Labor Standards Act stipulates (1) the principle of providing break time in the middle of a workday (Article 34, paragraph 1 of the Labor Standards Act), (2) the principle of providing break time for all employees simultaneously (Article 34, paragraph 2 of the Labor Standards Act), and (3) the principle of having free use of break time (Article 34, paragraph 3 of the Labor Standards Act).

The fact that employees have to be in the office to get phone calls for a company is that you are not free to use your break time except when the chances of receiving a call are extremely low, and it is not considered a break time.

Employees can be ordered to be in their office during break time. Whether or not that break time will count towards their working hours depends on the chances of receiving a phone call according to the employer; if the chances are extremely low then the break may not be counted as working hours despite them being in the office.