Thank you for contacting us.
We are sorry to hear about your experience.
A furlough is a temporary arrangement between an employer and employee where the employee’s responsibilities and pay are suspended for an agreed period of time as a way to avoid terminating the employee’s employment. This is normally done when there are extreme economic pressures (e.g. this covid-19 pandemic).
There is no specific law in Nigeria which governs furloughs and how they should be conducted. However, a furlough is essentially a variation of the terms of the contract of employment where the contract is suspended for a specified time. Therefore if both parties agree to the furlough then it is legal. In your case, your employer offered this to you and you rejected it, and the employer cannot force you to accept it.
However, your employer does have the right to terminate your employment based on economic reasons – which in this case it appears this is what has been done. All your employer needs to do is follow the agreed process in your contract for terminating your employment, for instance paying you a specified number of months salary in lieu of notice. The exact process would depend on your contract of employment.
In summary therefore, ‘yes’ furlough is legal if you both agree to the terms; ‘no’ your employer cannot force you to accept a furlough; ‘yes’ your employer has the right to terminate your employment if he is unable to pay your wages; and finally ‘yes’ your employer needs to follow the right process for terminating your employment which includes giving you a reason for the termination, and paying any outstanding benefits or salary in lieu of notice.
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. It is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.