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Leave Laws and Holidays in Nigeria: A Guide for US Employers

Interested in expanding your US company to Nigeria? We walked through Nigerian leave laws and other employment laws, in preparation for hiring there.

City of Enugu in Enugu State, Nigeria

Pilot Team

Published on July 15, 2022

Leave laws in Nigeria: An intro 🇳🇬

Nigeria is an appealing destination for US companies expanding their businesses abroad. In recent years, the government has made a concerted effort to support fintech companies, in particular, hoping to attract more investment in Nigerian businesses.While the country is becoming popular as a destination for tech companies, it has traditionally been known for its ethnic and cultural diversity. In fact, there are over 500 ethnic groups in Nigeria, with over 500 languages spoken there. Whether in rural Nigeria or in a bustling city like Lagos, family and traditions make up a significant part of Nigerian culture, and many of the leave laws and holiday customs in Nigeria reflect that.If you plan to hire talent in Nigeria, it will be important that you familiarize yourself with the leave laws in the country. In this article, we provide guidelines to Nigerian leave laws, as well as the important holidays celebrated by its people. First, let's review the laws that govern employment relationships there.
Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano, Kano State
Photo by Ajigah Harrison / Unsplash

The Nigerian Labour Act ⚖️

The Nigerian Labour Act is the main set of laws that governs employment relationships. The language used around employees and workers in Nigeria is unique. The Act uses the term "workers" to describe an employee or “any person who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer.” The contract with the employer may be for manual labor, clerical work, a contract of service, or “a contract personally to execute any work or labour.”The Act's definition of workers does not, however, include “persons exercising administrative, executive, technical or professional functions as public officers or otherwise." These individuals are mainly subject to the terms and conditions of their employment contract. There is some debate as to whether the Labour Act pertains to categories of workers outside of manual or “unskilled” labor workers, but in practice, the Act is generally the effective law.

Employment contracts 📑

A written statement of the particulars of the contract of employment must be provided to an employee within three months of their tenure working for the same employer. The written statement must include details such as:
  • The name of the employer
  • The name of the worker’s address, the job position, and the start date
  • The job description
  • Whether the contract is for a fixed term, and if so, the date of the contract's expiration
  • The notice period required in case either the employer or worker wishes to terminate the contract
  • The worker’s salary or wages, as well as the way wages are calculated
  • The frequency in which the worker is paid
  • Leave allowances
  • Any special terms of the contract of employment
Another important detail to include in an employment contract is the employment terms and conditions, such as working hours and conditions of work-related illness or injury. The employer must also outline benefits such as annual leave, holiday pay, sick leave, and sickness benefits. Let's look at this aspect of an employment contract, including normal working hours and overtime pay.

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Public Holidays Act

The Public Holidays Act regulates employee rights such as paid leave, working hours, overtime, and rest periods. Let's review some of these regulations.

Working hours and overtime ⏰

The Labour Act requires working hours that are written in employment contracts to be established by agreement, an industrial wages board, or a collective bargaining process. The length of a workday is generally determined by the company’s policies.Overtime is considered work that is performed outside of an establishment's normal working hours. If an employee performs work outside of normal work hours, they may receive extra payment, or time off in lieu of payment. Different job positions within a company may qualify for different overtime wages, but in general, overtime pay is based on an hourly wage. At a minimum, an employee's overtime pay must be equal to their hourly rate.There is no maximum number of overtime hours an employee can work per month, as long as the employee is allowed their statutory periods of leave and rest.

Rest intervals ⏸

An employee working six or more hours in a day is allowed at least one or more rest intervals in which they are not required to work or be present on work premises. Each rest interval must be at least an hour long. For some employees, the nature of the work may be strenuous, in which case those employees are entitled to multiple and suitably spaced rest intervals per day.

Weekly Rest 😴

Every seven days of work, an employee must be provided with one day of rest that is a minimum of 24 hours. An employer may eliminate a weekly rest day, however, they must instead provide time off from work within 14 days of the day the employee earned a rest day. In lieu of time off, the employer must provide overtime pay.

Paid annual leave 🏖

An employee whose period of employment includes 12 months of continuous service is entitled to a minimum of six working days of paid annual vacation. If the worker is under 16 years old, including apprentices, their accrued annual leave is 12 working days for every year of continuous service. Minimum paid annual leave does not include public holidays.Although the employer and employee may mutually agree to postpone when the employee takes their annual leave, the holiday-earning period cannot be postponed beyond 24 months’ continuous service. The employee must take their leave within the 24-month timeframe.Employees are entitled to full pay during their annual leave, excluding overtime or other allowances.

Holiday pay in the case of employee dismissal

If an employee is dismissed after less than 12 months of continuous employment, they must be paid a pro-rata amount of holiday pay for their accrued annual leave. Their earning period may not be less than six months since the employee last earned annual leave.
Virgin Mary shrine in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, Nigeria
Photo by Francis Tokede

Public holidays 🎊

There are nine public holidays in Nigeria:
  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Good Friday (Friday before Easter)
  • Easter Monday (varies according to lunar cycle)
  • Workers’ Day (May 1)
  • National Day (October 1)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)
  • Eid al-Fitr (subject to government authority)
  • Eid al-Adha (subject to government authority)
  • Mawlid (subject to government authority)
Every holiday mentioned above may be changed or moved by the government in power. In certain situations, the government authority may remove a public holiday from the aforementioned list, and instead appoint a different day as a public holiday.Sometimes, if a day declared as a public holiday isn't the actual day of the religious festival, an employee is nonetheless allowed to take time off to celebrate that religious festival on the actual date of the festival. For instance, a government authority may not include celebrations of Eid as public holidays, but employees nevertheless may leave on Eid holidays to visit their families.The rules for public holidays can be complex. Here is a guideline for holidays that fall on a day between Friday and Monday:
  • If two public holidays fall successively on a Friday and a Saturday, only Friday is kept as a public holiday.
  • If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, Saturday or Sunday is kept as a public holiday. In other words, there is no additional public holiday that Monday.
  • If two public holidays fall successively on a Saturday and Sunday, only the Saturday and Sunday are kept as public holidays.
  • If two public holidays fall successively on a Sunday and a Monday, only Monday is kept as a public holiday.

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Religious traditions 🕌

Nigeria is the home of many different ethnic groups, some of which share religious practices. The most commonly practiced religions in Nigeria are Christianity and Islam. About 48.3 percent of Nigerians identify as Christian, and 48.9 percent identify as Muslim.

Christmas 🎄

Although Christmas is a public holiday in Nigeria, it is mostly celebrated in the southern and central regions of the country, as the Hausa, a Muslim ethnic group, populates most of the northern region.The holiday starts on Christmas Eve. There is often a mass exodus of Nigerians who travel out of major cities to remote villages in order to celebrate with their families. Typically, Christian Nigerians will celebrate Christmas Eve with a big party among family.On Christmas Day, many Nigerians will attend church services in the morning and eat dinner with their families in the evening. Grilled meats like goat, sheep, beef, and chicken are served alongside jollof rice, a staple dish that many believe no Christmas is complete without.After dinner, children will visit their neighbors' houses to receive gifts, including money that they use to buy firecrackers (known as bangers).

Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha 🥘

There are two Eid celebrations in Nigeria that celebrate the end of Ramadan, an Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer. Both are celebrated in similar ways, but have distinct meanings. Eid al-Fitr, which is sometimes known as "little Eid" is celebrated on the last day of Ramadan with feasts and family gatherings. Many donate to charitable organizations on Eid as well.Eid al-Adha is known as "Big Eid," "Qurbani Eid," "Bakra Eid," or "Eid al-Kabir." In Yorùbá, the celebration is known as ‘iléyá’ which can be directly translated to "it is time to go home." Many Nigerian Muslims will travel home to visit ancestors during this time. The holiday lasts for three days, and typically is celebrated with Qurbani, the sacrifice of an animal in the name of Allah.

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Sick Leave 🤒

Under the Labour Act, employees are entitled to 12 working days within a calendar year for a temporary illness. To qualify for paid sick leave, the employee must have their temporary illness certified by a registered medical practitioner. Their sick pay is calculated as their normal wages, which they must receive in money form. Sick pay does not include overtime or other allowances.Sick pay must be paid by the employer. However, if the employer does not pay sickness benefits, the employee can receive sick pay from the Nigeria Insurance Trust Fund Management Board, which manages the The Employees Compensation Fund.

Parental leave 🤰

Female employees are entitled to maternity leave under the Labour Act. In order for a female employee to qualify for this leave, they must undergo a medical examination from a registered medical practitioner within six weeks of their due date. The registered medical practitioner must provide a medical certificate confirming the employee's pregnancy and due date.Under Nigerian law, a woman may not work for six weeks after a child is born. The statutory maternity leave period must be at least six weeks before the child's due date, and six weeks after the child is born. Some companies may increase the amount of maternity leave, depending on the contract of employment.A mother is also entitled to breaks for breastfeeding her child. Two half-hour breaks during the work day must be granted to a new mother.

Maternity leave pay calculation

Female employees are entitled to no less than 50 percent of their regular wages if they have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least six months. In some contracts, an employer may provide more maternity leave pay, or a mix of full pay and partial pay.

Paternity leave 👨‍👦

Although the Labour Act does not indicate regulations for paternity leave, in 2021 the Federal Executive Council approved 14 days of paternity leave for fathers of newborn children or newly adopted children. In the case of adoption, the adopted child must be under four months old for a father to qualify for paternity leave.Paternity leave pay must be outlined in a male employee's written contract of employment.

Legal Disclaimer:

The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

Compliance and labor laws ✔️

If your company is looking to hire in other countries, it will be important to stay compliant with legal regulations and employment law. Local labor laws will vary, not to mention requirements for paid leave and holiday entitlement. The annual vacation laws in Nigeria will not be the same as in other African countries, for instance, or in other countries around the world.Without the proper expertise, your company might overlook important details of employment law, local tax laws, or more. This oversight could result in significant fines or legal trouble.For many companies, the most prudent option for offsetting the risk of noncompliance is to hire HR experts.

Pilot can help 🤝

Pilot manages payroll, benefits, and compliance for remote teams. Our HR experts can help your business navigate all the odds and ends of international compliance. We enable companies to hire and onboard employees in over 100 countries, without having to set up local entities. Pilot also supports contractor payments in over 240 countries around the world, with no markup fees and no need for an e-wallet. Contractors love the convenience of getting paid through Pilot.

Going global isn't daunting when you partner with Pilot. 🤝

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