30 Japanese companies to offer equal rights to gay employees

Tokyo: At least 30 Japanese companies, including IBM Japan, Sony and Panasonic, will offer equal rights to their gay employees in a country where same-sex marriages are not legal. The companies will unanimously acknowledge as spouses the partners of their gay employees, who will now be able to apply for leave to care for their partners or receive financial support to enter into a civil partnership, among other benefits, Efe news reported. The companies, from the finance, technology and consumer goods sectors, will jointly draw up a guide to offer fair treatment to their employees from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The roadmap for the equality of gay workers will be presented shortly, a spokesperson of Panasonic said. Transgender workers will also be able to apply for leave to undergo sex-change surgeries. Changes in dress codes or use of public facilities, including washrooms at the workplace, will also be introduced, according to the guide prepared by the human resource teams of these companies, Nikkei daily reported on Friday. Some of Japan's biggest companies, including Panasonic, Sony and Softbank, have begun to introduce measures to promote equality among their employees, independent of the employees' sexual orientation or identity. Although Japanese law does not recognise same-sex marriages, several localities recently began issuing certificates of civil union to same-sex couples, which in practice gives them the same rights as heterosexual marriages.