by Rachel Ogbu
Legislators are close to passing a bill that would make it a criminal offence for employers of labour to owe workers salary.
Employers could get up to one-year imprisonment and loss of 30 per cent of benefits if they delay or fail to pay their salaries, new reports have revealed. The bill before the House of Representatives is called the Workman (Unpaid Wages Prohibition) Bill and has already passed second reading.
According to the sponsor of the bill and House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, owing of workers’ wages; pension and emolument will attract sanctions and the penalties will include the loss of 10 to 20 per cent of the value of the delayed salary.
Gbajabiamila explained that one week after a salary is overdue; the employer would begin to lose percentages of the salary, which would be added to the employee’s pay.
“Late payment or no payment of salary encourages corruption. People are forced to seek unlawful means to meet their financial and family obligations. It is our responsibility as legislators to protect the welfare of the citizenry. There is no point saying you have a job, yet no pay.
“This bill prescribes a period, beginning from seven days; the employer will pay a percentage in addition to the salary. From 10 per cent, it can rise to 20 per cent, and so on.”
The penalty is contained in a new shall apply to employers in both public and private sectors when it comes into effect.
Here is the full detail of the bill as released by Punch online.
It showed that employers would lose between 10 and 30 per cent of the wage value for delaying or failing to pay employees’ salaries.
Section 4 (1) of the bill provides, “An employer shall not hold onto the salary, wage, pension and any other benefit and emolument of any workman for a period of seven days and above from the day the payment of such salary, wage, pension and any other benefit and emolument falls due save in the event of any force majure.”
Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, sponsored the bill.
According to the bill, a salary delay of one to seven days, shall attract a penalty of “10 per cent of one month wage”, while delay or non-payment of salary for eight to 30 days, shall cost the employer “20 per cent of one month wage”.
Where the delay is 30 to 60 days, the penalty shall be 30 per cent of two months wage.
Salary delay of 60 days and above shall attract a harsher penalty of “30 per cent of the wage for the duration and one-month imprisonment of the employer”.
The bill provides that depending on the size of the organisation, the provision shall apply to the employer, whether as an individual, partners or the directors.
Sub-sections 3-6, added, “Where the breach is in respect of other monetary benefits apart from monthly wage and monthly pension, the penalty shall be 30 per cent of such monetary benefits for the period.
“(4) Without prejudice to the provisions of this Act, where the employer in breach of this section for more than 60 days is an individual, the schedule herein shall apply to such individual.
“(5) Without prejudice to the provisions of this Act, where the employer in breach of this section for more than 60 days is a small company other than a limited or public company, the penalties in the schedule herein shall apply to each of the partners in the company.
“(6) Without prejudice to the provisions of this Act, where the employer in breach of this section for more than 60 days is a limited or public company, the schedule herein shall apply to all the directors of the company.”
(7) The schedule referred to in sub-section 2 above shall form an integral part of this Act.
The bill defines employment as a contract between the employer and the employee, where the former agrees to employ the latter.
The proposed legislation states, “Contract means contract of employment, and includes any contract of apprenticeship.
“Contract of employment means any agreement, whether oral or written, express or implied whereby one person agrees to employ another as a worker temporarily or permanently and that other person agrees to serve the employer as a worker.”