The Senate, on Tuesday, passed for second reading a bill seeking to amend Labour Act to provide stiffer penalties for various offences ranging from modern slavery, child Labour to discrimination against women in the workplace.
Sponsor of the Labour Act Amendment Bill 2020, Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi, in his lead debate, said the bill seeks upward review of the present fines for various offences in the Labour Act, which he said are now obsolete and not in line with modern realities.
“These current provisions cannot provide the needed protection for workers in the labour market.
“There is, therefore, a need to review these penalties/fines upwards in order to achieve fair and harmonious employee relations,” Onyewuchi said.
Details of the bill showed that Section 21 proposed a fine of N500,000 and N1,000,000 from the present fine of N800 and N500 for first and second offences relating to “Breach of terms and conditions of employment”, as it relates to the wage-hour, nature of employment, leave, contracts of employment, among others.
The amendment bill in Section 46 also proposed a new fine in the sum of N500,000 as against N500 for neglect or ill-treatment of workers by employers; N500,000 and N1,000,000 for recruitment of employees without an employee’s permit or recruiters license in the new Section 47, as against the present fine of N200 for a first offence and N2000 for a second or subsequent offences.
On the other hand, Section 53 in the amendment bill sought an increase in a fine from N500 for the first offence and N200 for second or subsequent offences to N300,000 and N200,000 for inducement of apprentice to leave service of employment.
In another upward review of penalties, Section 58 proposed the sum of N200,000 and N100,000 for denial of maternity protection and employment of women in underground work or mines in contrast with the present fine of N200 for a first offence and N100 for second or subsequent offences.
In a move to prohibit Child Labour in the country, Section 64 was reviewed by proposing a stiffer fine of N200,000 as against the present N100 for the employment of young persons in unreasonable circumstances e.g industries.
The piece of legislation was amended in Sections 67 and 68 by proposing a fine of N250,000 as against N1,500 for breach of regulations of the Minister as they relate to Labour health areas and registration of employers.
In addition, the amendment bill in Section 72 reviewed the fines for offences committed by persons with intent to deceive in the employment of labour from N1000 for a first offence and N500 for second or subsequent offences to N300,000 and N200,000, respectively.
The bill proposed stiffer penalties to Section 73 to address forced labour by reviewing upward the present fine of N1000 for first offence and N200 for second or subsequent offences to N300,000 and N200,000.
In Section 74 which provides for the Breach of regulations made by the Minister with respect to Labour required in emergencies and for communal obligations, the bill raised the fine from N200 for first offence and N10 for second or subsequent offences to N30,000 and N10,000.
Also, the Labour Act amendment bill in Section 75 and 76 on contravention of records of wages and conditions of employment; returns and statistics of employees were amended to propose a N300,000 fine as against the present N200.
Whereas, in Sections 85 and 88 of the Principal Act (costs in court and fines for regulations made by the minister), the present fine of N50 for a first offence and N500 for second or subsequent offences was reviewed to N50,000 and N500,000.
The bill after scaling the second reading was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity for further legislative work.
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