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May 2017 –
Stacey who works in a salon in Port Harcourt was hit by a car while going
across the road to fetch water to wash a customer’s hair. The salon usually has
water facilities but is undergoing a renovation which causes interruptions to
their normal water supply. The accident resulted in a broken bone which has
placed her off work and off earnings. This represents the kind of situations
the Employees Compensation Act was enacted to deal with.

Employees
compensation in Nigeria is governed by the Employees Compensation Act Cap E7A,
LFN 2004 [ECA] and administered by the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund
Management Board [Board]. In countries with a robust legislative framework,
occupational health and safety legislations set the tone for how employers should
make work places safe. With such legislation in place, the occasion for
employee compensation should be minimized. As at today, occupational health and
safety in the work place in Nigeria is regulated by the Factories Act Cap F1,
LFN 2004. This Act has long become moribund with several attempts by erstwhile
National Assemblies to repeal it and enact an Occupational Safety and Health
Act. As at the 9th of March 2017, the Senate read the current Occupational
Health and Safety Bill for the second time and referred it to the Senate
Committee on Labour and Productivity. It remains to be seen if the current
National Assembly will achieve success in repealing the Factories Act and
replacing it with a much-needed Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The crucialness
of occupational health and safety was buttressed at an event held in Abuja in
April to commemorate the 2017 World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Mr.
Dennis Zulu, the Country Director for the Nigerian International Labour
Organization (“ILO”) office represented by Mr. Aly Cisse, the office Chief
Technical Advisor stated that “ILO statistics show that a worker dies every 15
seconds while 153 workers have work-related accidents every 15 seconds
globally”. He further revealed that 6, 300 people die daily as a result of
occupational accidents or work related diseases[1].
The absence of an
occupational health and safety legislation that addresses present day
work-place realities sets the mode for increased cases of employee
compensation.
The ECA which
repealed the Workmen’s Compensation Act has the objective of providing an open
and fair system of guaranteed and adequate compensation for all employees or
their dependents for any death, injury, disease or disability arising out of or
in the course of employment. It provides for a minimum monthly contribution of
one per cent of the total monthly payroll by employers. It is noteworthy that
this contribution is not to be deducted from the remuneration of the employee
and thus constitutes an additional employment cost to employers.
In addition to
accidents occasioned in the workplace, the ECA covers injuries sustained
between the work place and the employee’s residence; the workplace and the
place where the employee usually takes meals; the work place and the place
where remuneration is usually received provided the employer has prior
notification of such place.  
 It also covers injuries sustained
where the employee is required to work both in and out of the workplace or
where the employee has the permission of the employer to work outside the
normal workplace. The Act lists several injuries and diseases and conditions
under which compensation will arise. The percentage of compensation and the
periods of payments are also provided for.
The ECA
anticipates coverage for all workers in Nigeria and defines an employee to
include persons employed under continuous, part-time, temporary, apprenticeship
or casual basis including domestic servants. The definition covers oral and
written contracts of employment. The Act specifically provides that in the case
of independent contractors and sub-contractors, the person or organization
engaging the service and the independent contractor shall be jointly liable for
assessments under the Act relating to that work.
The claims
procedure begins with an injured employee, or in the case of death the deceased
employee’s dependant, informing the employer of the injury or death and the
particulars of the injury within fourteen days of occurrence or receipt of
information of occurrence. The employer in turn has an obligation to make the
report to the Board within seven days of receiving the information. By the
provisions of the law, the application for compensation to the Board ought to
be made within one year after the date of the death, injury or disability.
Failure to make the application within the prescribed time may disentitle the beneficiary
to compensation unless the Board is satisfied that special circumstances
precluded the filing of an application within the first year. In practice,
employees sustaining work related injuries may be treated by their employers
who in turn make claims to the Board for reimbursements with documented
evidence of expenses and proper medical reports. In the case of death, the
Board makes payments directly to the deceased’s dependants.
As earlier
stated, the essence of the ECA is to provide an open and fair system of
guaranteed and adequate compensation for all employees or their dependants for
any death, injury, disease or disability arising out of or in the course of
employment. The question however is:  how do these benefits become
accessible to Stacey and the numerous undocumented workers who get injured
daily?
Clearly, the
current national economy and employment disequilibrium affords little incentive
for an employer of unskilled labour or casual workers to comply with the ECA.
This is further worsened by the fact that most casual workers are completely
undocumented. The employees on the receiving end will also rather keep a job
than worry about a lack of coverage in the event of a work-related injury or
disease. Accordingly, employees such as Stacey for whom remittances are not
made, will never get compensated. Unfortunately, many Nigerian citizens
employed on temporary or permanent basis whose employments are not divulged to
the Board could die while carrying out their works and such deaths will never
be compensated for.
  

 

Eberechi May Okoh
Senior Associate at Streamsowers & Kohn
Ed’s Note – This article was first
published here