Japan’s employee work-life balance has once again been called into question, after a 64-year-old employee of Kobe’s Water Bureau was docked a half day’s pay and reprimanded for leaving his desk three minutes early for lunch.

The worker was found to be in violation of a Japanese public service law, requiring officials to ‘concentrate on their jobs’. When spotted by a senior colleague while on his way to buy a bento box, he explained he needed a ‘change of pace’. The man’s behaviour was considered so ‘deeply regrettable’ that Japanese officials made a public apology for his behaviour on a local TV news conference.

This comes hot on the heels of the recent bill passed in Japan, capping overtime at 100 hours per month in an attempt to alleviate the number of workers dying from overwork, or ‘Karoshi’. The death of a 24-year-old advertising worker, who was forced to work 100 hours overtime a month, including weekends, resulted in public outcry and widespread media attention.

So, while Japan storms ahead as a pioneer of technology and innovation, its employee welfare, health, and wellbeing policies look in need of serious reform. And, while UK employers may find the Working Time Regulations exasperating at times, cases like these go to show how important legislation that underpins a sensible work-life balance really is.