Reps move to criminalise nonpayment of salaries

The House of Representatives is proposing a Bill to criminalize delay and non-payment of salaries of employees by individuals and corporate bodies in the country.

The Bill, entitled: Employees Remuneration Protection Bill, 2023, is sponsored by a member representing Agege federal constituency of Lagos State, Wale Hammed.

The Bill, which has passed first reading in Section 7 (1) states that “it shall be unlawful for any employer to refuse or neglect to pay the remuneration of his employees, as provided under this Act.”

The bill further states in Section 8 (1) that “where an employee’s remuneration is unpaid after the expiration of the period allowed by this bill, the employee, who desires to claim his entitlement, shall serve upon his employer a written demand for the payment of entitlement.”

However, it provides that “where a demand is served pursuant to Section 9 of this bill and the employee remains unpaid after five working days, the employee may apply to the court by way of motion on notice for redress.”

Consequently, the proposed legislation prescribes a jail term of between three to six months, without option of fine, for individual employers convicted for non-payment of salaries of their workers.

In the case of a corporate body that fails to comply with the order of court for the payment of its employee(s), shall be liable of a fine of N10,000 for each day of the default, “be sealed off for a period of time not exceeding three months, where the default is more than two months.

In the alternative, the proposed legislation prescribes the “committal of every officer or agent of the company, government parastatal, agency, body or institution, who knowingly or willfully authorizes or permits the default or failure to a fine of N10,000 until the order is complied with.

According to the bill, an employer is expected to give the employee a written term of employment, for an employment, which is for more than one month, not later than 14 working days, after the resumption of the employee.

The employment contract, which shall be signed by both the employer and employee, shall detail the nature of the employment, method by which it shall be terminated by any of the parties, remuneration, methods of payment, as well as terms and conditions.

Furthermore, Section 27 of the proposed legislation stated that the application to the court by the employee for the payment of his remuneration shall not be the basis for any “disciplinary action, query, suspension or dismissal of the applicant by the employer.

While Section 28 provides that the payment of all outstanding remuneration of employees shall be prioritized in the event of the employer becoming bankrupt.

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