TOKYO – The president of Japan’s biggest advertising agency Dentsu says he plans to step down, a year after an employee suicide linked to allegations of extreme overwork at the company.

Tadashi Ishii said he would tender his resignation at a January board meeting following the suicide of an employee who had worked hundreds of hours of overtime, the BBC reported.


The announcement came as Japanese authorities referred Dentsu and one of its executives to prosecutors on suspicion of violating Japan’s labour law by forcing the 24-year-old employee to work illegally long hours.

Matsuri Takahashi, a graduate of the prestigious University of Tokyo, jumped to her death on Christmas Day 2015 at a company dormitory.

She had worked more than 100 hours of overtime every month having joined the company in April of the same year, Japanese media reported.


In a note left for her mother, she asked: “Why do things have to be so hard?”

Dentsu has been under pressure to reduce the amount of overtime its employees do and in November it was raided by labour regulators.

In September, the Japanese government ruled that Ms Takahashi’s death had been caused by overwork. She would often return home at 5am after spending all day and night at the office.

On Wednesday, Mr Ishii, who has been chief executive in 2011, said: “An excessive amount of work should never happen.”

“I deeply regret and feel responsible for this. I will take full responsibility and resign as president at January’s board meeting,” he told reporters in Tokyo yesterday.

Hundreds of deaths from overwork — known as “karoshi” in Japan — due to strokes, heart attacks and suicides are reported every year, along with a host of serious health problems. The phenomenon has sparked lawsuits and calls to urgently tackle the problem.

According to a government survey released in October, more than one in five Japanese companies have employees who work such long hours they are at serious risk of death.

The survey was part of the nation’s first white paper on “karoshi” endorsed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet.