The Legal Rights And Obligations Of Employers And Employees In Nigeria[1]


Generally, the relationship between an employer and an employee is governed principally by contract.[2]

It’s no doubt that the existence of an employer – employee relationship gives rise to duties and rights between the parties. Both parties owe one another duties which correspond to rights to one another.

The laws regulating the relationship between the employers– employee in Nigeria include;

  1. The Labour Act
  2. The Employee’s Compensation Act, 2010
  3. Trade Unions Act
  4. National Industrial Court Act, 2006
  5. National Industrial Court Rules, 2007
  6. International Labour Organisation conventions

Who is an Employee?

According to Employee’s Compensation Act, 2010, an employee means a person employed by an employer under oral or written contract of employment whether on continuous, part-time, temporary, apprenticeship, or casual basis and includes a domestic servant who is not a family of the employer including any person in the Federal, State or Local Government or any government agencies and in the formal and informal sectors of the economy[3].

Legal Rights of an Employee

  1. Right to be paid and compensated for work and services offered[4].
  2. A contract specifying the terms of the employee’s employment.[5]
  3. A safe working environment and access to protective gears in the course of employment.
  4. Right to dignity of his person.
  5. An employee has a right to not be subjected to any form of discrimination in the workplace.
  6. Right to be treated fairly and with respect.[6]
  7. Right to terminate the contract of employment after giving the requisite notice.[7]
  8. Right to seek redress where the employer violates the right of the employee.
  9. Right to sick leave.[8]
  10. Right to annual holiday with pay[9]
  11. Right to maternity leave.[10]

Obligations of the Employees to the Employer

An employee owes his employer certain obligations. This is recognized both under common law and statutory laws and has been given judicial pronouncements by the courts.

  1. An employee owes a duty to be ready and willing to work.
  2. An employee owes the employer duty to carry out his work with due diligence, care and skills required.
  3. Duty to obey lawful and reasonable order.
  4. Duty of fidelity and faithfulness
  5. Duty to not engage in actions that will put others at risk in the work place.
  6. Duties not to disclose the Employer’s trade secret.
  7. An employee should not willfully disrupt the employer’s undertaking, i.e. to co-operate with the employer.[11]
  8. To account for profits received.[12]
  9. To ensure the Employer’s properties are handled with skill and care while in the Employer’s service.


Who is an Employer?

The Labour Act defines an Employer as someone who has entered into a contract of employment to employ other person as a worker either for himself or for the service of other person, and includes the agent, manager or factor of that first-mentioned person and ythe personal representatives of a deceased employer.

On the other hand  the Employee’s Compensation Act, 2010 defines  ‘an employer’ to include any individual, body corporate, Federal, State or Local Government or any government agencies who has entered into a contract of employment to employ any other person as an employee or apprentice[13]

Obligations of an Employer to the Employee

It is the position of the law that during the course of employment, an employer owes his employee certain obligations. This includes and not limited to the following;

  1. An employer has a duty to provide work for the employee.[14]
  2. An employer has a duty to pay the employee for the services rendered.
  3. He has a duty to provide a safe working condition for the employees.
  4. Employers must treat their employees with respect.
  5. They must make sure their employees are not harassed or discriminated against.
  6. An employer has a duty to provide equity and all inclusive work environments to accommodate employees with disabilities.


Legal Rights of an Employer

  1. Right to employ competent staff.
  2. Right to quality work from the employees
  3. Right to loyalty by the employee.
  4. Right to ownership of works done within the working hours with the resources of the employer.
  5. An employer has the right to terminate the contract of the employee in line with the contract of employment between the parties.
  6. Right to seek redress where the employee violates the right of the employer.


Which court is vested with the jurisdiction to hear employer-employee disputes in Nigeria?

The National industrial court established by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria is vested with the jurisdiction to hear and decisde on labour matters in Nigeria. Thus where an employer or an employee wants to seek redress for any injury he has suffered from the other party, such person is to institute his or her matter in the National Industrial court.

Note that, Military personnels and other members of the armed forces are exempted as the court vested with the jurisdiction for military personnels,  is the Court Martial.

It is important to note that, where the contract of employment specify that the parties seek an alternative dispute resolution first before going to court, such must be complied with.


In conclusion, the law recognizes the rights and duties in the employer-employee relationship. The law acknowledges that both parties are entitled to rights from the relationship as much as they have obligations towards one another. Thus, both parties are expected to fulfill their part of the contract as failure to can yield consequences.

[1] Written by Faidat Balogun, (BLL, L.B) Associate, Adedunmade Onibokun &Co

[2] Employment Law, Gwyneth Pitt

[3] Ibid at  1

[4] Section 15, Lbopur Act, 1974.

[5] Section 7, Labour Act, 1974.

[6] Section 46, Labour Act, 1974

[7] Section 11, Labour Act, 1974.

[8] Section 16, Labour Act, 1974.

[9] Section 18, Labour Act, 1974.

[10] Section 54, Labour Act, 1974.

[11] Nigerian Employment and Labour Relations Law and Practice, Chioma Kanu Agomo at pg 119.

[12] Ibid at 4

[13] Section 73 Employee’s Compensation Act, 2010.

[14] Section 177, Labour Act, 1974.

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