Man sues firm for 'paternity harassment'

Mr Glen Wood, who was Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities' global sales head, wants his old job and salary back.
Mr Glen Wood, who was Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities' global sales head, wants his old job and salary back.

Canadian single dad working in brokerage in Tokyo says he was demoted after son's birth

A Canadian man who has been working in Tokyo's finance sector for nearly two decades is suing his employer, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, for what is known in Japan as "paternity harassment".

Mr Glen Wood, 47, who was the brokerage's head of global sales, is arguing that he has been unfairly sidelined by the company with a demotion and a hefty pay cut after the birth of his son, Alexander, two years ago.

Now a single father, he is fighting for his old job and salary back in the ongoing case before the Tokyo District Court. Mr Wood has been suspended without pay since Oct 18.

The lawsuit has wider implications for a nation that is struggling to cope not only with a demographic time bomb, but also with a severe lack of interest among the top foreign talent it is trying to woo by offering the world's quickest road to permanent residency.

The number of births recorded in Japan last year fell below one million for the first time despite Japan's generous childcare leave benefits. For one, the law grants fathers up to 52 weeks or an entire year of paid paternity leave - compared with Singapore's two weeks.

But the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said only about 3 per cent of new fathers took any or all of that benefit last year. The government wants to raise this to 13 per cent by 2020.

A study this year found that most young fathers hoped to take paternity leave, but are not doing so because of social hurdles, including peer pressure and fears that their colleagues would "think unfavourably" of them.

"In Japan, people are afraid to have children. This is why the birth rate is so low. They don't feel that they can have both children and a career and that is very sad. It is not a humane answer to the situation," Mr Wood told The Straits Times in a recent interview.

The Ontario, Canada, native, who holds a Master in Business Administration degree from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, first came to Japan almost 30 years ago and is fluent in Japanese.

He worked at Mizuho Securities, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs before joining MUFJ Morgan Stanley in September 2012.

In response to ST queries, an MUFJ spokesman said the company "has set up a childcare leave system even before this incident, and we actively support our employees in applying for childcare leave regardless of their gender or nationality".

He added that 42 per cent of new fathers who qualify for paternity leave applied in fiscal 2016, and that the firm is on course for 100 per cent in the current fiscal year.

"We will never disadvantageously treat any employee's childcare leave application," the spokesman said, adding that the company is "sincerely working to resolve the issues surrounding Mr Wood's lawsuit and his continued employment".

Japan ranked last among 11 Asian nations in terms of appeal for top foreign talent, said a report released last month, behind such countries as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. It was also ranked 51st out of 63 nations worldwide in the IMD World Talent Ranking report.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2017, with the headline 'Man sues firm for 'paternity harassment''. Print Edition | Subscribe