The Nigerian Labour Act
The Nigerian Labour Act is the primary legislation which deals with the relationship between an employer and its employees. It contains quite a number of provisions which govern this relationship dynamic, and also all the regulatory processes applicable for employers. We at LawPàdí decided to analyse the provisions and highlight a few of the which we believe every Nigerian should be aware of.
Firstly, and most importantly, it appears that the Labour Act is not applicable to all classes of employees in Nigeria. The Act uses the word ‘workers’ in describing employees, and defines workers as not including persons exercising administrative, executive, technical or professional functions as public officers or otherwise. This means if the nature of your role is administrative, executive, technical or professional, then you are not covered by the Act. The Labour Act only covers employees engaged under a contract of manual labour or clerical work in private and public sector.
- Forced Labour is illegal. The first (and in our opinion, most important) thing every Nigerian should know is that it is illegal to force anyone to work for you. It is every Nigerian’s right to be free from forced labour, and this right is guaranteed under the 1999 constitution. Apart from existing in the constitution, it is also restated in the Labour Act. Therefore, if you or someone you know is being forced to work against your will, you can report to the police as it is a crime. However, the Labour Act gives the government the ability to be able to requisition people to work during an emergency or a calamity, and this will not be classed as ‘forced labour’
- All employees must have a written contract. The Labour Act states that an employer must give an employee a written contract within 3 months of the commencement of the employment. The contract must have the certain key terms – name of employer/employee, nature of employment, duration, wages etc. The key thing here is to ensure that the employee is protected by all the relevant terms being reduced to writing so the employee knows what is expected of him/her. Also important is that if there is any change in the terms of the employment, it should be made known in writing to the employee within 1 month.
- Payment of wages. Any contract where the whole or part of the worker’s wages is made payable in any other manner apart from legal tender shall be illegal, null and void. Therefore, it is illegal for your employer to attempt to pay you with things other than money. A few other key things to note around wages is:
- It is illegal for any contract to be for the payment of wages at intervals exceeding one month unless with the written consent of the State Authority. This means if your employer makes you sign an employment contract where the employee is to be paid every quarter or every 6 weeks etc., such a contract is illegal.
- No employer can impose any restrictions as to the place and manner in which the employee can spend his/her wages. So your employer can’t insist that you only buy lunch from the office canteen.
- Employers are not allowed to provide an advance of wages in excess of 1month wages
- Salary Deductions. Employers are not allowed to deduct an employee’s wages for any reason, unless reasonable deduction for injury/loss caused to the employer by the employee, but only with prior written consent of an authorised labour officer. Also, if you are lucky enough to have your employer mistakenly overpay you, then you should know that the money which was overpaid can only be deducted within 3 months from the date of the overpayment. Any attempt by your employer to deduct the overpayment from your future salary after the expiration of this 3-month period is illegal
- Illegal to prevent employees from joining trade unions and other labour associations. No employment contract can prevent workers from joining trade unions, and any contract which makes it a condition of employment that the worker should relinquish membership of a trade union or prejudices workers by reason of trade union membership is illegal.
- Rest Hours, Sick Leave, and Holidays for Employees.
- If a worker is at work for more than 6 hours a day, he/she must be given at least 1 hour of rest-interval in that day. Further, in every period of 7 days, a worker is entitled to at least 1 day of rest which must not be less than 24 consecutive hours. So for instance if you work Sunday all through Saturday, you must have the whole of the following Sunday as a mandatory day off.
- Every worker is also entitled to 12 days’ sick leave for temporary illness certified by a registered medical practitioner.
- Every employee after 12 months of continuous service is entitled to a holiday with full pay of at least 6 working days (this is exclusive of all the public holidays)
- Maternity and Paternity leave. All female employees are entitled to at least 12 weeks’ maternity leave with full pay. Unfortunately, the Nigerian Labour Act does not recognise paternity leave and makes no such provisions. However, in Lagos State civil servants are entitled to 10 days’ paternity leave within the first 2 months of the birth of the baby.
- Transfer of employment. An employee must consent to the transfer of his/her employment from one employer to another for it to be valid, and the transfer must be endorsed by an authorised Labour officer. So if for instance your company is taken over by another company, your employment will not automatically move to this new company (employer) without first consulting you and getting your agreement to transfer your employment.
- Termination of employment. With respect to the termination of an employment contract, the Labour Act provides for minimum notice periods:
- Where the employee has been employed for a period of 3 months or less, either party may terminate the contract with a minimum of 1-day notice
- Where the employee has been employed for a period of 3 months but less than 2 years, either party may terminate the contract with a minimum of 1-week notice
- where the employee has been employed for a period of 2 years but less than 5 years, either party may terminate the contract with a minimum of 2-weeks notice
- Where the employee has been employed for a period of 5 years or more, either party may terminate the contract with a minimum of 1-month notice
- When giving notice of termination of employment contract where the notice is 1 week or more, the notice must be in writing
There you have it, 9 very important provisions. The Labour Act is not the only piece of legislation which protects employee rights, we have written an article on the Employee Compensation Act here, which we suggest you read.
There are many more changes to the Labour Act which we would like to see, for instance the inclusion of paternity leave, increase to the compulsory holiday leave period etc. We will keep an eye on the legislation here, and keep you updated.
If you would like to read more about the Labour Act, check out the law itself here – Nigerian Labour Act
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We hope you have found this information helpful. Please note that this information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. This answer is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.