Unfair Dismissal by an Employer: Your Legal Rights

What is unfair dismissal?

Unfair dismissal is an employment situation in Nigeria where an employee is dismissed from his/her role, and this dismissal is unfair due to the reason given not being a sufficient one, or if the employer did not follow the correct process for dismissing the employee (for instance where the company disciplinary procedure was not followed). Unfair dismissal also applies to cases where the dismissal is due to discrimination or victimisation.

An unfair dismissal would not cover a situation where the employee is dismissed for incompetence (there has to be evidence of this e.g. repeated failed evaluations), or where the employee has engaged in misconduct (e.g. dishonesty, fraud, misbehaviour or insubordination), or criminal conduct.

Where the employee has been dismissed for a substantial and valid reason, it will not be an unfair dismissal. Please note that just because a decision is logical, does not mean that it would automatically not be an unfair dismissal. If you are in doubt as to whether or not your dismissal was unfair, you should consider speaking to a lawyer.

In genuine redundancy situations i.e. where the company is unable to maintain the role which the employee is fulfilling either because of reduced viability of the role or a change in the business model of the company, dismissal will not be unfair so long as the proper procedure has been carried out. If your employer has dismissed you for a valid reason but did not follow the correct procedure, this may also be considered as unfair dismissal.

There are certain instances where the act of dismissal is patently unfair, these include:

  • where the dismissal relates to pregnancy or maternity leave;
  • where the dismissal relates to discrimination;
  • where the dismissal relates to an instance of the employee asserting his/her legal rights;


What to do about unfair dismissal?

If you think you have been unfairly dismissed, or are about to be unfairly dismissed, then the first thing you should do is take some independent legal advice. Speak to a lawyer, explain the circumstances and they will advise you on whether it is indeed an unfair dismissal.

If it is a potential case of unfair dismissal, the lawyer will advise you on what steps are available. However in employment situations it always best to initially explore mediation or negotiation.

This mediation or negotiation should ideally be facilitated by a lawyer or a mediation expert. In some cases, parties may be able to agree a solution by way of a ‘settlement agreement’, where the employer agrees to make a compensatory financial payment to the employee.

If mediation or negotiation fails, then you might be left with no choice but to take the matter to court. Court cases in Nigeria can potentially be expensive and time consuming, but there is a specialised court – the National Industrial Court. The National Industrial Court was set up in Nigeria for employment issues and disputes to reduce the length of time spent on employment cases.

With respect to the costs of bringing litigation, this is something that will be discussed with the lawyer, however most lawyers offer flexible terms when it is an employment issue and can even agree to contingency fee arrangements where the employee has grounds for seeking damages for unfair dismissal.

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We hope you have found this information helpfulPlease 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 article is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.


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