Page last updated at 09:00 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 10:00 UK

Toyota acts on overwork culture

Toyota Highlander
Toyota has a reputation for innovative production methods

Toyota is taking steps to deal with Japan's corporate culture that has been criticised for being workaholic.

It is to pay workers more overtime for attending out-of-hours meetings to discuss manufacturing methods.

It previously only allowed workers to claim two hours' overtime a month for such "voluntary" activities.

The decision follows a court ruling in Nagoya in November that a 30-year-old Toyota worker who collapsed at one of its plants had died of overwork.

It emerged that the man had worked 106 hours of overtime in his final month, most of it unpaid.

Sign of loyalty

Public criticism of the overworking culture has been growing, with unions saying that companies generally see working unpaid overtime as a sign of loyalty.

Toyota has a reputation for using employees' ideas to improve production methods and efficiency and reduce costs.

These ideas are discussed at voluntary so-called "QC Circle" meetings, with QC standing for quality control.

Toyota has not announced what the new limit will be for paid overtime hours or whether the payments will have an effect on profits.

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