Japanese tech giant Panasonic has made a bold statement by extending employment rights to its gay and lesbian employees – despite a lack of government recognition.

Though homosexuality has long been legal in Japan, the country does not formally recognise same-sex partnerships – and households headed by same-sex couples are ineligible for the legal protections and employment benefits.

Panasonic, one of the country’s most prominent businesses, this week sent a message to the country’s government by extending same-sex partner benefits to its own employees.

The Japanese electronics giant, which has over 250,000 employees, announced today that it would change its rules to recognise same-sex marriages and partnerships.

The company will also review a policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation – something not currently prohibited by legislation in the country.

Opinions in Japan have steadily shifted on LGBT rights in recent years, with a major city this week confirming it would issue partnership certificates to same-sex couples.

The city of Iga in the Mie Prefecture announced the change, which follows the Shibuya and Setagaya wards in Tokyo.

Although these certificates are not legally binding, businesses are being urged to honour them in the same way they would a marriage licence.

Shibuya and Setagaya, considered the wealthiest of Tokyo’s 23 wards, began issuing certificates to same-sex couples last November, a decision hailed as a major step forward for Japan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

While the certificates do not provide any legal recognition of same-sex unions, they allow couples to rent an apartment, visit each other in hospital and gain a variety of other benefits as a couple.