The House of Representatives is proposing a bill to criminalise non-payment or failure to pay salaries by employers of labour and corporate bodies across the country.
When passed into law, employees can demand payment from their employer by submitting a written claim.
The bill, sponsored by Wale Hammed, a member representing the Agege Federal Constituency, Lagos State, titled “The Employees Remuneration Protection Bill, 2023, has passed its first reading.
Section 7(1) of the bill provides that it is unlawful for any employer to “Refuse or neglect to pay the remuneration of his employees, as provided under this Act.”
Section 8(1) of the bill states that if an employee’s compensation remains unpaid beyond the specified period permitted by this legislation, the employee may submit a written demand to their employer for the payment of their entitlement if they wish to assert their claim.
Therefore, “if an employee fails to remit payment within five business days following service of a demand under Section 9 of this bill, the employee may petition the court for redress by filing a motion on notice.”
According to the bill, employers found guilty of failing to pay the salaries of their workers risk three to six months of imprisonment without the possibility of a fine.
Similarly, a corporate entity that fails to adhere to a court order regarding the remuneration of its employees risks a fine of N10,000 daily, or “Be sealed off for a period not exceeding three months, provided that the default extends beyond two months.”
This is even as the bill imposes a N10,000 penalty on any officer or agent of the organisation, government parastatal, agency, body, or institution who deliberately or knowingly authorises or permits the default or noncompliance with the directive until it is complied with.
With this proposed legislation, employers are obligated to provide written terms of employment to resuming employees within 14 working days of the employee’s return to work for terms of employment exceeding one month.
The employment contract, which is binding on both the employer and the employee, shall comprehensively outline the terms and conditions, remuneration, and methods of payment, in addition to the character of the employment and the procedure for terminating it by either party.
Section 27 of the bill provides that an employee’s petition to the court for payment of remuneration shall not serve as grounds for “disciplinary action, inquiry, suspension, or termination of the applicant by the employer.”
Meanwhile, Section 28 of the bill states that in the event of an employer’s bankruptcy, priority shall be given to the payment of all outstanding remuneration to employees.