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The Legal Rights And Remedies Available To A Nigerian Worker

The Legal Rights And Remedies Available To A Nigerian Worker

If you are an employee working in a private establishment or in the civil service in Nigeria, here's a quick summary of the rights and remedies available to you by law.

Minimum Wage

The National minimum wage is 18,000 naira, about 50 United States dollars per month. Due to inflationary trends and high cost of living, wage increases have been demanded by Labour Unions.

Minimum Requirements in Employment Contract

The principal statement encapsulated in the contract of employment entered into between you and your employer must contain specified details including:

The name of the employer

Your name and address and the place and date of your engagement

The nature of the employment

If the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires

The period of notice to be given within which to terminate the contract

The rates of wages and method of calculation thereof and the manner and periodicity of payment of wages

Terms and conditions relating to (i) hours of work; or (ii) holidays and holiday pay; or (iii) incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including any provisions for sick pay; and any special conditions of the contract

Working Hours, Rest Hours and Annual Holiday

Normal hours of work can be fixed by mutual agreement, or by collective bargaining, or by an industrial wages board where there is no machinery for collective bargaining. If you are required to work outside the normal hours agreed upon in the terms of contract, the extra hours shall be considered an overtime.

Where you work for 6 hours or more a day, you are entitled to rest-interval of not less than 1 hour on the aggregate. Furthermore, in every period of 7 days, you are entitled to one day of rest which shall not be less than 24 consecutive hours.

Where you put in a 12-month continuous service at work, you shall be entitled to at least 6 working days as holidays with full pay. The holidays may be deferred by agreement between the employer and you, provided that the holiday-earning period shall  not be increased beyond 24 months’ continuous service.

Sick Leave

You are entitled to wages up to 12 working days in a year during your absence from work caused by temporary illness certified by a registered medical practitioner, subject to the Workmen's Compensation Act.

Maternity Protection

If you are a pregnant woman, you are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of maternity leave with full pay.  Of this period, six weeks must be taken after the birth.  You may start leave at any time from six weeks before the expected date of birth on producing a medical certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner stating that confinement will probably take place within six weeks.

Where you have been continuously employed for a minimum period of 6 months preceding your absence, you are entitled to not less than 50% of the wages you would have earned if you were not absent. If you are nursing a baby, you are entitled to half an hour twice a day during working hours for that purpose. Paternity leave is not recognized under federal law.

Discrimination Protection

There is no legislation that specifically regulates equal opportunities and discrimination in employment.  The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended, contains a general prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of: ethnic group; place of origin; community; sex; religion; political opinion; and circumstances of birth.

Safety and Welfare

The Factories Act places an obligation upon employers/owners or occupiers of a factory to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers within the factory. Thus, it is the duty of your employer to ensure that the provisions of the Factories Act relating to cleanliness, overcrowding, ventilation, lighting, drainage and sanitary conveniences are complied with.

Furthermore, the Act makes it the duty of the employer to provide a safe means of access and safe place of employment. It is mandatory by law that you be provided with protective clothing and appliances, where you are employed in any process involving excessive exposure to wet or to injurious or offensive substance. Similarly, where necessary, suitable gloves, footwear, goggles and head coverings should also be provided and maintained by the employer for use.

Redundancy

The Labour Act defines redundancy as an involuntary and permanent loss of employment caused by excess manpower.  The employer can terminate your contract of employment on ground of redundancy.  However, in the event of redundancy:

The employer is to inform the trade union or the worker's representative concerned.

The principle of “last in, first out” shall be adopted in the discharge of the category of workers affected, subject to all factors of relative merit, including skill, ability and reliability.

The employer is to use his best endeavours to negotiate redundancy payments to any discharged workers who are not protected under the Labour Act.

Termination of Employment

The Labour Act provides the following as minimum notice periods for the termination of an employment contract:

Where you have been employed for a period of 3 months or less, you or the employer may terminate the contract with a minimum of 1-day notice

Where you have been employed for a period of 3 months but less than 2 years, you or the employer may terminate the contract with a minimum of 1-week notice.

Where you have been employed for a period of 2 years but less than 5 years, either party may terminate the contract with a minimum of a 2-week notice.

Where you have 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.

Remedies For Breach Of Contract By Employer

If you suffer discrimination at work place; or unreasonable variation of the terms of the employment contract; or unlawful dismissal, or unfair termination of your contract of employment; you can sue your employer for breach and obtain the following remedies:

Reinstatement or reengagement (subject to the mutual consent of you and the employer); or Award of terminal payments; or Award of monetary compensation.

What are terminal payments?

Terminal payments are the entitlements which you are entitled to but have not yet been paid upon dismissal or termination of contract. Terminal payments may include salary/wages, arrears of payment, salary in lieu of notice, end of the year payment; maternity leave pay; severance payment; or long service payment, sickness allowance, holiday pay, annual leave pay, etc. Put differently, terminal payments are entitlements that you might reasonably be expected to be entitled to under the contract if the contract of employment had been allowed to continue.

NEXT STEPS?

It must be understood that this article is for general informational purposes only and not a substitute for legal guidance. If you are facing health and safety hazards at work place; arbitrary variation of the terms of the employment contract; unlawful deductions from salary; personal injury or illness arising from or incurred in the course of employment; unlawful dismissal; or unfair termination of contract of employment; you should seek legal guidance. Action for breach of employment contract and worker's compensation require specific legal advice and help from a legal practitioner.

EdoAbasi Udo is a Barrister, Solicitor and Consultant at Lex Artifex, LLP.

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