Nigerian Labour Law

The administration of labour is regulated by Labour Decree No. 21 of 1974 and its subsequent amendments.


General Requirements

Not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment, the employer shall give to the worker a written statement/contract specifying:

  • The name of the employer or group of employer or group of employers and, where appropriate, of the undertaking by which the worker is employed.
  •  The name and address of the worker and the place and date of his engagement.
  • The nature of the employment.
  • If the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires.
  • The appropriate period of notice to be given by the party wishing to terminate the contract.
  • The rates of wages and method of calculation thereof and the manner and periodicity of payment of wages.
  • Any terms and conditions relating to:
    •  hours of work, or
    •  holidays and holiday pay, or
    •  incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including anyprovisions for sick pay.
  •  Any special conditions of the contract, if, after the date to which the the statement relates, there is a change in the terms to be included or referred to in the statement, the employer:
  • Shall, not more than one month after the change, inform the worker of the nature of the change by a written statement;
  • If it does not leave a copy of the statement with the workers, shall preserve the statement and ensure that the worker has reasonable opportunities of reading it in the course of his employment, or that it is made reasonably accessible to the worker in some other way.


Termination of Employment

A contract of employment may be terminated by either the employer or employee on the expiration of notice given by one party to the other party of his intention to do so.


A one day notice may be given where the contract has been in existence for a period of three months or less. For a contract that has continued for between three months and five years or more, the notice which shall be in writing shall be for a period ranging from one week to one month depending on the duration of the contract.


Employee Remuneration

Wages and salaries are normally paid weekly, bi-monthly or monthly. Fringe benefits usually paid to workers including housing allowance, travelling allowance annual holidays with pay, leave bonus, pension and gratuity contributions, meal subsidies, provision of housing, medical and transportation.

Employers are not permitted to make deductions from employees’ remuneration other than those prescribed by law and collective bargaining agreements such as taxes under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system, contributions to trade union and contributions to provident and pension funds. Other deductions that could be made include overpayment of wages and advances given. The total amount of deductions that may be made in any month shall not be greater than one third of the employee’s wages for the month. Overtime is payable at rates stipulated by the employer.


Restrictions on Employment of Foreigners

Visa and Work Permits – A non-Nigerian requires the consent of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to do business in Nigeria. The approval is conveyed in a letter styled business permit.


Expatriate Quota

On application to the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs, approval can be given to a company proposing to employ expatriates for senior management, technical or specialist posts. Approval will not normally be given to employ expatriates to do jobs for which there are suitably qualified Nigerians, it is therefore the responsibility of an applicant to prove that the employment of an expatriate is unavoidable.


The expatriate quota approval for a new company with non-Nigerian participation is usually stated in the business permit. An increase in expatriate quota and the number of expatriates approved for a wholly indigenous company is usually conveyed in a letter from the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs.


An expatriate quota is granted for specific jobs and, generally, is for a specific number of years except for one or two key personnel the quota for whom may be permanent until reviewed. Capitalization of 5 million attracts an automatic quota of two while a capitalization of 10 million or more attracts four.


Residence Permits

When an expatriate quota is granted, application is made through the appropriate Nigerian Embassy or High Commission abroad for resident permits (entry permits). This is in addition to visa requirements where applicable. Generally, evidence of academic, professional or technical qualification and/or experience is required to be produced. A person (usually the prospective employer) resident in Nigeria must give a written undertaking to bear all immigration responsibilities in respect of person(s) covered by the application.



Wives and children of expatriates with entry permits are also granted entry permits freely on application, but they require specific permission to work in Nigeria except on a voluntary non-remuneration basis for charity.



Generally, a foreigner requires a visa to enter Nigeria. The only exception relates to citizens of member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who required only entry permits. The former exemption granted to Commonwealth citizens from the requirement to obtain information from the nearest Nigerian Embassy or High Commission seeking clarification concerning their status.



An expatriate on leave is counted as part of the quota.



Periodic returns in respect of expatriate quota in a specified form have to be submitted to the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs. Failure to do so may create embarrassment.


Final Departure

When an expatriate employee leaves Nigeria finally, the Department of Immigration must be informed.


Visitors’ Permits

It is possible to obtain visitors’ permits on application to the Nigerian High Commission or Embassy abroad. Permits are usually granted for 28 days but the visitor must have a return ticket on arrival in Nigeria. Persons with visitors’ permits must not take up employment in Nigeria.


Temporary Quota

The Immigration Department may, on application, grant a temporary expatriate quota for a short period. A temporary quota is usually for specialists required for, say, three months to install or service a special type of machine or equipment. Non residents negotiating one-time contract work in Nigeria should discuss the immigration implications with the prospective employer, particularly where the non-resident intends to apply for exemption from incorporating a local company under Sections 56-60 of the Companies and Allied Matters Decree, 1990. In such a situation, the Nigerian employer may have to apply directly to the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs for a special quota for the purpose of the job.


Employees’ Associations and Labour Unions

Provision is made in the labour laws for the formation of employers’ associations and trade/labour unions on the basis of similarity of business interest or occupations. At present, there are 42 Trade Labour unions memberships and 19 Senior Staff Associations’ in the country.


Social Security

Both employer and employees contribute to approved provident funds. In some cases, employees do not make any contribution to pension funds. The eligibility of a worker to benefit from pensions, retirement or gratuity schemes varies from one employment to another. Invariably, the terms are contained in contracts of employment or collective bargaining agreements with registered trade unions. Social security schemes are approved by the Joint Tax Board and subject to renewal annually.


Other Benefits

Other benefits include maternity leave and pay, medical and year-end bonuses.


Workmen’s Compensation

Employers are obliged to provide accident insurance for their employees



18 thoughts on “Nigerian Labour Law

  1. I like this article. However, in my working place-a private university, all casual workers are to reapply every new school year or session, interviewed, before they would be reabsorbed to work. Please,is this ideal? I need your reply soon. Interview for those that have reapplied begins from Mon August 31,2015. Thank you.

    • Hi Caleb,
      The starting point is to look at the details of the contract

      A contract is a legally binding or valid agreement between two parties. The law will consider a contract to be valid if the agreement contains all of the following elements:

      • offer and acceptance;
      • an intention between the parties to create binding relations;
      • consideration to be paid for the promise made;
      • legal capacity of the parties to act;
      • genuine consent of the parties; and
      • legality of the agreement.

      Most University cannot always predict the exact staffing levels it will require. They therefore operates a bank for casual workers. This agreement records the terms on which a casual work relationship is entered into between you and the University.

      Caleb, what does your contract says?

  2. Please I had like to find out if there is any labour law that stipulates the maximum duration an employee can be placed on contract employment.

    I would appreciate your swift response.

    Thank you.

    • Currently in the Nigerian Labour law, the maximum duration an employee can be placed on contract employment is not expressly written….You can seek more legal interpretation


  3. Hi,
    I have checked the Nigerian labour law but I have been unable to find anything on how long an employer can keep a disabled employee in his/her employment that is what protection does such employee have against being fired as a result of the disability.
    I would appreciate a prompt response.
    Thank you.

  4. Sir have a nice day, I need to ask some few question regarding my status as an expat worker.
    I’ve been working in nigeria about 4years. Actually im yet done my 3years contract agreement, I did to extend for unlimited contract, so now how about if the company send me back finally to my origin place what are those benefits avail for me? What about gratuity benefits can I avail of this? Can you please give me a clarification about it. Thank you sir..god bless you and more power.

  5. Please i would like to know if there is any provision in the labor law on increasing the wages of employees annually or as the need arises. Thank you.
    I would also like to know the provision on the labor on staff medical

    • There is no law enforcing private firm/organisations to increase the wages of their employees. Increment of Wages/Salaries is done at the discretion of the management decisions. The government sets the minimum wages

  6. Is it right for an employer to place someone on retirement because he or she had attained the required age 50 and had worked continuously worked for ten years even when the person is still healthy and performing his or her duty?

    • In Nigeria, the retirement age is 65 years – or after 35 years in service, but this applies only to the public sector.
      I would suggest you look at the Staff/Employee Handbook for the private company in question.

      • sorry the retirement age for civil servant is either 60 years of age or 35 years in service, whichever one come first. 65 years is for non academic staff of federal institutions i.e NASU. but 70 years for Profs and Judges.

  7. An employee tender a letter of resignation after two weeks suspension has been given to him. Although he denied receiving the notice of the suspension- the notice was issued via email and it was issued in the morning, while he tenders his letter just before the close of work that same day.
    Does the employee have to serve the suspension before the resignation takes effect, or the resignation nullifies the suspension?

  8. I would like to know more about the threshold on deductions
    “The total amount of deductions that may be made in any month shall not be greater than one third of the employee’s wages for the month”
    Please expatiate. Also, is this actually practiced in Nigerian organizations?

    • Most companies that have well structured HR department does abide by the threshold on deductions. The stature is to protect the employee, usually excess deductions is spread to the other months evenly (employees with multiple loans). Kindly note it also depends on the HR Executive interpretations.

  9. Hello

    Please according to the Nigerian Labour Laws, what compensations, allowances and provisions are due an employee who has been posted to work in a foreign country other than his country of origin (Nigeria)?

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