The law places a responsibility on the employer to provide good working conditions for their employees, this ranges from a healthy and safe environment, and provisions of safety equipment, etc. To further ensure that such responsibility is met, it provides remedies enforceable against the employer for certain injuries or diseases sustained during employment and at the workplace. This article will discuss the available remedies and compensation for workplace injury for employees in Nigeria.
Generally, there are 2 remedies available to an employee for a workplace injury. These are:
- Application for Compensation under the Employee Compensation Act, 2010
- Civil action against the employer at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
It is pertinent to note that an employee has been defined by section 73 of the Employee Compensation Act to be “a person employed by the employer under oral or written contract of employment whether on continuous, part-time, temporary, apprenticeship, or casual basis and also includes domestic servants who is not a member of the family of the employer including persons employed in any federal, state or local government or their agencies or any formal or informal sector of the economy.”
Thus, any person who comes under this definition can claim compensation under the Act.
Application for Compensation under the Employee Compensation Act, 2010
The Employee Compensation Act, 2010 (the Act) is the extant law governing the payment of compensation to all employees both in the public and private sector except members of the armed forces. It mandates all employers to contribute to the 1% of the total monthly payroll into the compensation fund and entitles all employees to claim compensation for occupational diseases and injuries sustained from an accident at the workplace or during employment. Here, we will briefly discuss the Act by highlighting the forms of injury entitled to compensation and the procedure for applying for compensation.
Forms of Injury Entitled to Compensation
Sections 7-11 of the Act provide the category of injuries employees are entitled to claim compensation for under the Act. These include:
- Disabling injuries arising out of or in the course of employment. This also includes injuries that prevent an employee from earning full remuneration at the workplace which is payable from the first working day after the injury.
- Accidents sustained between the place of work and the employee's primary or secondary residence, where he/she usually takes meals and places where he/she receives remuneration provided the employer has prior knowledge of such.
- Injuries or diseases sustained during employment. Unless contrary can be proved, it is presumed to have occurred during employment. This also includes injuries superimposed on an already existing disability.
- Mental stress which can be an acute reaction to a sudden reaction or unexpected event during the course of employment or a diagnosis of a medical practitioner that it arose from the nature of the work or event related to the work. Such can also arise for changing working conditions that unfairly exceed the working ability and capacity of the employee.
- Occupational diseases that disable the employee from earning full remuneration, cause death, arising from the nature of the employment which entitle the employee to compensation and health care benefits.
- Hearing impairments of non-traumatic origin arising out of or in the course of employment and impairment superimposed on existing hearing impairment. The extent of the hearing impairment determines the compensation to be paid and this is decided by the Board in consultation with the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOHS)
- Injuries arising outside the normal/usual workplace if the job requires the employee or the employee has the authority of the employer to work outside the normal workplace.
Procedure for Applying for Compensation
This is a simple procedure governed by Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Act. They provide thus:
- Notification of Injury: The Employee or his dependant in the case of death shall first notify the Employer, manager, supervisor or any other appropriate representative of the employer of the injury or occupational disease within 14 days of the occurrence or receipt of the notification of the occurrence stating the name of the employee, time and place of occurrence, nature and cause of the disease if known. The employer may further request for particulars of the injury or disease on a form prescribed by the Board.
- Employer's Obligation to Report to the Board: The Employer is also required to report to the Board and the nearest NCOHS within 7 days of the occurrence of the injury or death or within 7 days of receiving the notification of injury and shall state the name of the employee, time and place of death, injury or disease, nature of injury or death, name and address of accredited specialist that attended to the employee and any other information required by the board.
- Application for Compensation to the Board (Nigeria
Social Insurance Trust Fund Management
Board): This is made in the form
prescribed by the board and signed by either the employee or his
dependent and must be made within 1 year of the occurrence of the
injury or death. Compensation shall not be made if the application
is not made within the time frame unless special circumstances
exist, then the time frame can be extended to 3 years. For a person
claiming compensation for hearing impairment, his application must
be accompanied with:
- Report of a medical practitioner who specializes in such field accredited by the Board
- An audiogram and a report by the employer of the working environment of the employee
- Any other evidence as may be requested by the Board from time to time.
It is pertinent to note that an employee cannot waive his right to compensation to which he or his dependants may become entitled. Furthermore, while an employer is mandated to contribute 1% of the annual payroll to the compensation fund, the employer cannot either directly or indirectly deduct from the remuneration of the employee any sum the employer is liable to pay to the fund. The Act further considers as an offence the contravention of its provisions.
Commencing civil action against the employer at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria
Section 12 of the Act states that an employee is not precluded from claiming damages from the employer for workplace injury under any law. Thus, an employee can institute a civil action in court against the employer based on negligence. This liability for negligence by section 12 of the Labour Act can also result from the negligent act of a co-employee, which caused injury to another employee.
The appropriate court to institute such an action is the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, which by Section 254C of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has the jurisdiction to entertain matters pertaining to employment, labour, matters arising from the workplace, conditions of service, the welfare of employees and other related matters. The employee can through a legal practitioner commence an action wherein the facts are pleaded, and damages are claimed in respect of the injury sustained. There have been several cases such as Obasuyi & Sons (Sawmill) Ltd v. Erumiawho (1992) 12 NWLR 227, Chagaury & Anor v. Yakubu (2006) 3 NWLR 139, Registered Trustees of Winners Chapel v. Ikenna (2018) LPELR-45767 (CA) among others where employees have instituted civil actions for injuries caused during employment against their employers.
In conclusion, employees need to be aware of the remedies available to them in the event of a workplace injury and employers likewise must be aware of the financial liability placed on them by the law in the event of workplace injury so they can strive to provide safe working conditions to avoid liabilities.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.