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Ivie Omoregie: Before You Sign That Employment Contract, Here Are a Few Key Clauses to Note

Ivie Omoregie

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Ivie OmoregieAs an employee, one of the prerequisites to having some sort of assurance in a particular organisation is the Employment Contract. However, in a country such as Nigeria where unemployment is rife, and hunger is real, many job-seekers do not wish to “rock the boat” before gaining proper entry into an establishment. It is unlikely for a newly employed person, who has been job hunting for at least seven years, to negotiate any aspect of the Employment Contract and it is because of the high rate of unemployment that many employers choose to take advantage by enforcing onerous terms on their employees.

An Employment Contract, also known as Employment Agreement is a binding document which sets out the obligations and expectations of the parties, purportedly minimising future disputes.

A deeper look into the Labour Sector in Nigeria will reveal that the applicability of the Labour Act is limited to low cadre employees. This would mean that employees who cannot be regarded as being low cadre employees by virtue of the provisions of that legislation can only see recourse under the terms of their Employment Contract.

I believe that, at all times, one should fight for ones rights. I’m not advocating the pursuit of unrealistic goals (please do not go there and quote me whilst asking for a 2015 Range Sport as the company car for your junior position); however I do believe that where one is not comfortable with a particular term in their Employment Contract, then one should raise this fact before signing on the dotted line.

Fundamentally, the employee has the ball in his court and he is expected to take a closer look at the various terms, duties and rewards enshrined in the document. Anyone who knows their self-worth will always negotiate for terms that would be to their benefit.

Having said that, some of the vital issues an employee should look out for when reviewing his Employment Contract include the following:

Compensation (A.K.A “Salary”, “Allowance”, “Ego”, “Kudi”, “Owo”, or “Money”)
This is the main clause an employee must look out for. If the pay is not sufficient consideration, then such an employee might as well remain unemployed and stress free. When scrutinising one should also consider other benefits and entitlements, such as bonus, leave allowance, housing and transportation.

I have a friend who didn’t spend up to a year in her former place of work. She had to quit when she calculated her expenses and placed it beside her salary – she realised the money left, after deducting money spent on transport, wasn’t enough to make her live an “okay” life.

Scope of Employment
Many employees rush into an organisation at the very chance they get and fail to ask themselves “What exactly is my role here and is there any other secondary role which is ascribed to my position?”. At the end, we find absurdities arising, such as the receptionist taking up the duty of the messenger or sometimes the role of cleaner.

A lawyer friend of mine who’s just over 10 months in the profession commented on such instance where lawyers of his level are ordered to perform duties not relating to their calling, such as making daily trips to “Iya Eba” or “Ghana High” to pick up every ones lunch.

Vacation Entitlement
In this jurisdiction, it is not unheard of for there to be a clause in the Employment Contract baring the employee from any entitlement to leave whatsoever for the first year of their employment.

Initially, I thought this was only applicable to entry level employees, but recently I have come to learn that this clause may be found in any contract an organisation is able to put it into. Thus one can find themselves moving jobs after five years in the job market, and suddenly unable to take time off to recuperate.

I have never actually understood this, as very few immune systems can work non-stop for one entire year without rest; in most instances, employees will merely call in sick and return a few days later with a doctor’s note, thus making the “Leave” unmonitored and the organisation fundamentally losing. As the saying goes “Man no be machine, body no be fire wood”. If the organisation doesn’t know this, I’ll advice that you let them know as soon as you are set to negotiate this clause.

Where such a clause exists, it is worth negotiating to ensure that you are entitled to full staff entitlements from the moment the employment is confirm, that is after the conclusion of any applicable probation period.

Termination
It is always advisable to look for the grounds upon which the company can terminate the Employment Contract.

In the UK, it is a norm for organisations to have a clear procedure for termination; this is usually in the form of oral warning, written warning, suspension then termination. Or where there has been a serious incident, suspension, followed by an investigation which may then lead to the termination of the Employment Contract. However here in Nigeria, we do not have any uniform procedure for terminating an employee’s contract; many organisations simply do not properly cater for termination in the Employment Contract, thus leaving the employee at the mercy of the “Benevolent Dictator” also known as “The Oga”.

It is for this reason one needs to ensure termination is properly addressed in the Employment Contract. Where it is addressed, it is also equally import to ensure that the contract does not have an omnibus clause inserted in there. These clauses tend to be drafted in a way that they capture a range of instances and are often used by employers as a means of ending the Employment Contract abruptly; for example one such clause could read “or any other instance which in the view of management may be deemed as a breach of this Employment Contract”.

Notice Period for Resignation
Please, if you are not employed as senior management, exactly why should you be mandated to give 3-6 months’ notice of intentions to leave the organisation? In the instance where one has landed a fantastic role with a fantastic organisation, how many of these organisations will be willing to wait 3-6 month for you to complete the required notice period.

In most instances, once a member of staff resigns, their work load will significantly reduce, with them being present merely to hand over to the next parson. For this reason, I do not see why a non-managerial role would need 3-6 months to hand over to their predecessor.

Other essential terms in an employment contract include the following:

  1. Accident/disability and death whilst on the job
  2. Restriction of post-employment trade;
  3. The effective date of the contract;
  4. If the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires;
  5. Hours of work;
  6. Paid sick leave;
  7. Criterions for promotion; and
  8. Unilateral relocation to another location.

Conclusion
I walk down the streets these days and I see in every corner written in chalk or printed on A4 papers and pasted on rough walls, some sort of vacancy or job opportunity calling for “workers”.

But I cannot help but ponder if the said organistaion is seeking an individual who will add value to their team, or a mere “slave” who they can easily manipulate and mistreat.

In most developed countries, workers have their lives and jobs insured. Unfortunately, this is not the case here in Nigeria, with some people arguing that ‘it is better to be doing something than to do nothing at all’.

In the end, it is expected of every new employee not to rush into a new opportunity that has got no opportunity at all in its real sense.

Ivie Omoregie is the Founding Consultant at Skye Advisory. Skye Advisory is a boutique business advisory firm with locations in London, England, as well as Lagos, Nigeria. Skye Advisory offers bespoke Legal, Financial and General Business advisory services to small and micro businesses. Ivie is a duly qualified lawyer with years of cross border experience in the areas of Corporate Advisory, Energy and Projects, Finance and Litigation.  Ivie is also an active member of the Nigerian Bar Association as well as an avid woman's and children's rights promoter. View more details about her at www.IvieOmoregie.com. Follow her on Twitter @Ivie_Omoregie and Instagram @Ivie.Omoregie "

36 Comments

  1. Toyin

    January 8, 2016 at 10:27 am

    On point. Very well written piece.

  2. Meah

    January 8, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Interesting write up. As you rightly stated, the high rate of unemployment make people overlook a lot of things in their letter of employment. I have to say, though, that some things just come with certain territories and cannot be clearly spelt out in employment letters, no matter how sophisticated the organization e.g, sending junior staff on errands. Most lower cadre employees will be asked to buy boli or iya eba at some point in their career. I simply view it as one of life’s lessons which can play out in different ways: you can learn to comport yourself in a manner that makes it difficult for anyone to send you on such errands as you progress in the organization, stand up for yourself and say a firm but polite/rude no to such request or simply keep at it because you either dont mind or are too timid to say otherwise. Whichever way it turns, I believe its one of society’s subtle way to make you a better (or worse) individual.

  3. Linda

    January 8, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Nice one. This recently affected me personally. To say I am unhappy is an understatement. Some terms agreed to in negotiation but not captured in the employment contact, now seem to be nonexistent. I feel like walking for the fact that my boss has played a number on me.

  4. Mrs_ID

    January 8, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Appalling grammar – for a “lawyer”, why write “criterions” when you could have easily written “criteria”…….
    That being said, unless we have solid and independent employment agencies that genuinely seek the welfare or employees and employers, the same old story will continue.
    The rate of unemployment is so low and employers know this that’s the main reason why employees are treated rather shabbily.
    My 2 cent –
    Don’t start what you can’t finish all in the name of being the “good girl/boy” i.e. don’t agree to go and queue at Iya Silifa for amala for your supervisor, it is not your responsibility to go to the market for your boss or pick her kids up in school ( I find that super ridiculous), neither is it your job to take your boss’ car for servicing.
    Learn to set boundaries right from the start and when it comes down to your official role go above and beyond the call of duty, it goes a long way.

    • Gbenga

      January 8, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Someone who is correcting grammar, then later going on to shell……… Interesting

    • Ocean Beauty

      January 8, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      The rate of unemployment is so low?
      “Correcter must be the worstest”

  5. YUMMY CHICK CUM MUMMY

    January 8, 2016 at 11:03 am

    my sister, u nailed it … esp. private companies in niaja. the role u employed for is totally mixed up…i dont get y an admin . officer will go pick up oga’s kids at school, get lunch for the boss and pay personal utilities for the boss………… or is it the sydrome of it better doing nothing ,at least u earning something pple will say. and at the end of month u are waiting to pay for debts cos the expenses is more than the pay Or is it he way they sack u without notice ……………it is well o. also when the a personhas been unemployed for so long, na to sign sharp sharp due to frustation

    • Natu

      January 8, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      @Yummy Chick I can’t believe employers actually operate like this. This is so shameful. I will never treat my employees like this. I want them to be part of my company’s mission and vision. I will empower and enrich their careers.
      #Entrepreneur #leadership

    • Onye

      January 9, 2016 at 12:03 am

      My dear, when they start stealing you blind, then you will not care about all that o

    • Natu

      January 9, 2016 at 1:48 am

      @Onye what are you talking about?? How can they steal from me when the entire production and opetation system is computerised and digital?? How Sway?
      P.S That is no reason to treat your employees like dirt.

    • molarah

      January 8, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      My own problem is even with the admin role in many organizations. In many cases the job description is either not well defined or fluid enough to enable all kinds of abuse.

      Nice write up by the way.

  6. DLP

    January 8, 2016 at 11:18 am

    On point very well written

  7. Ms Jayee

    January 8, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Thanks Ovie for this piece. It is something we (employees) have grumbled about but we have not taken any actions to address probably because we do not know how to. With that said, my question is what is the BEST way to handle these issues especially when one is being hired in a junior/mid-level position;

    Let’s look at this scenario: You are coming into the said organization with a number of years (say 4) below your belt and you very much fit into the role. How do you say without sounding “proud” (that is the number one reason Nigerians like to attribute to people) that you would like to resume on a later date because you will need time to “recuperate” and get ready for the new role or that you want to negotiate the entitlements and/or know the actual breakdown. I ask this ’cause most employers (especially indigenous ones) act as though they are doing you a favor by offering you the position and as such you should not ask questions! I find this a case of ‘walking a thin rope’ because you know very well that you need the job but at the same time, you don’t want to come across as desperate – that you would just sign the letter without scrutinizing it or “proud” (that word again!) – that you choose to ask these questions.

    And while we are on that turf, pleassseeee someone tell me how to say ‘No’ to getting coffee and tea. Like seriously? it wasn’t in my job description and noone should preach culture ’cause that is not why we are here/there.

    • molarah

      January 8, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      Sister, you have to learn how to say “NO”. O wa very necessary in the workplace. If you don’t, a lot of people will take the opportunity to walk over you. There is a thin line between being assertive and coming across as a difficult, aggressive person though.

      As for the person that needs to recuperate, I guess it would not hurt to ask. If during the interview process the person had been open about the fact that they were currently in employment, this should not be too much of an issue. But sometimes, the need in the new organization may be really urgent. So the person may need to strike an agreeable bargain – maybe to ramp up quickly and cover twice as much ground in the first few weeks at work to make up for lost time, or something else, so that it is clear to the organization that their new hire has the company’s best interest at heart. My thoughts though, will like to have other people weigh in on this issue you raised.

  8. Miss Delta

    January 8, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Fantastically well written piece. Easy to read and relate to with some pertinent points for both employees and employers to take note of. As a small to medium biz owner and an employer of about 25 staff I would appreciate closer guidance not just on my obligations but also on ways to protect my business from the at times difficult behaviour of staff within the proper legal framework. I think I might have to contact Ivie off line for one to one!

  9. Mrs Oke

    January 8, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Very Apt! especially as it is new year and a lot of companies are recruiting… I believe it is desperation that makes a lot of job seekers ignore the intricate details of an employment contract. They seem to forget that it is a legally biding document and once signed you are bound by it. That being said, I have worked for mostly multinationals and most of the items you’ve listed are very well articulated in their contracts. It is only some shady one man businesses in Nigeria that would employ you without a contract. I recently signed a new contract with my employer but that was after a lot of back and forth due to questions and clarifications and even amendments. Bottom line is know your worth and demand for it.

  10. Abeonekaenobi

    January 8, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Atta girl! good to see u and this beautifully written piece. I am definitely with you on this one.

  11. K. B. Davies

    January 8, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Well said, Ivie!

  12. Lara

    January 8, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I see nothing new in this write up.

  13. marves

    January 8, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Now this is an article I like.

  14. sweet

    January 8, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    @Mrs Oke please could you help a sister by giving me your mail address,let’s see if i can get a placement in one of the organizations you’ve worked I’ve been searching tey tey.
    Thanks Ma in advance

  15. bimbo

    January 8, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Yes, as Nigerians we should be more vocal in negotiating our employment contract terms. We are too often treated as slaves devoid of any rights working long hours with no overtime pay or appreciation. The Nigerian labour law ought to provide adequate protection to all groups of employees.

  16. Tt

    January 8, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Such a good read, Well done Ivie! Despite the current situation in Nig, potential employees need to know what to look out for.. the problem with Nigeria is employers have the upper hand; the second issue is “culture” as we like to call it.

    • blessing

      January 8, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      i think the cultural spin to this argument is well mentioned. We live in a society where it is deemed as “poor home training” should a young person be vocal about his/her thoughts and beliefs. Even when the elder has clearly taken the wrong position.

  17. se

    January 8, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Situation I am in right now. Beating myself! Anything that isnt written in white and black, or clause that hasn’t been removed? Talk about it! and biko make sure its added or removed in BLACK AND WHITE!

  18. Benbella

    January 8, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    A girl called Dee resumed work at a telecommunications firm in the VI area as a Human Resources Analyst.

    On her first, second and third day, nobody assigned her any work, not even her manager. She shared an office with the other HR staff while her manager had his own office next door. She decided to read the company’s website, arrange her desk, perform some clerical tasks like sorting out the filing cabinet and paper work repository,

    On the fourth day, she was reading the company newsletter on the intranet site to update herself on the company’s commercial acquisitions, when the manager poked his head through the office door and saw her: “Oh, so you are idle, eh? Ok go to Tantalizers and get me a Tanta-roll.”

    One Tanta-roll.

    She had a car, but it was around the lunch rush-hour where there was bound to be loads of traffic.

    As if he read her mind, he said “Take an okada. Be back here on time, because I don’t want the office empty.”

    Or the Tanta-roll cold.

    She was not thrilled at being “messaged” but she thought to herself: it is alright, it is just like a coffee run. Interns and new staff do coffee runs at times. It is a rights of passage in some organisations.

    Well that is what she thought.

    The next day her boss sent her to get more Tanta-roll.

    Then it became a daily ritual to send her at 12 noon to get all kinds of bites from eateries far and wide, from Tanta-rolls to meat-pies, yam pottage, egg rolls, beans, bread, Ofada Rice, Ghana High, Nigerian Low, Congolese Medium etc. Soon everyone in the office was also chipping their money once it was 12 to send her to Tantalizers.

    She would come back and try to sort people’s orders and give them back their correct change, sometimes with insults to boot.

    She once stained herself with a large “map of Nigeria’ red stain on her crisp white shirt from palm oil leakage while juggling takeaway packs of yam-pottage and other foods, and trying to hold on for her dear-life on a speeding okada.

    That was the last straw – she devised a plot to go to the loo once it became 11.45 and stay there till way past 12 noon. After then, she would come to the office, grab her jacket and announce that she was off for lunch.

    She did this for like 3 days in a row, before she noticed that her boss had now assigned chap doing his NYSC attachment to do the “Tanta runs” instead.

    The very next day her manager put his head through the office door and said “Dee, bring a laptop in tomorrow, we are going out for a meeting with a client at Ikoyi Hotel.”

    • wendy

      January 8, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      hats off to the girl, people need to really start standing up for themselves.

    • molarah

      January 8, 2016 at 6:17 pm

      Lol! Interesting story. Although I’m annoyed that it took the girl that long to figure out how to get away from that scenario. Not only tanta roll. Later on when they want to lay off staff her name will quickly be put on the list by same manager because he’ll say “Afterall, its only tanta roll she knows how to buy”. People please, know your worth. Ensure you make the most of opportunities that come your way in the workplace. If you have recently been hired and you have not been assigned any meaningful or relevant work, make it a habit to bug your supervisor/manager (at least every 4 hours’ interval every day), asking them if there is any role you can help out with. Let them know what skills and experience you have, and what you are looking forward to learn, so that they send sensible tasks your way.

  19. wendy

    January 8, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    hats off to the girl, people need to really start standing up for themselves.

  20. Idomagirl

    January 8, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Good read.

  21. Sweet

    January 9, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Pls still on the employment matter,any information on any company recruiting right now.Any help is deeply appreciated

  22. Jen31

    January 10, 2016 at 2:58 am

    This is a well written piece that touches on key points in an Employee Contract as an owner of a Recruitment Consultancy these are issues that I address with my clients frequency and I always say what you give is what you get back. You cannot expect an employee to be productive if you do not put in place realistic performance reviews competitive compensation and rewards benefits. Even Things like Health care Pensions and Life Insurance you only find that offered with multinationals and medium sized businesses which I believe is not acceptable. Leave is a necessity to ensure your employees are not overworked as as a result they would be unproductive. We have a long way to go but with forward thinking minds small steps to achieve big steps with surface

  23. Jen31

    January 10, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Also don’t be afraid to stand up for the fact that they shortlisted you and offered you the job in the first place indicates that you are a necessity rememeber that and use it as leverage . The employer would have interviewed many more people before you so you have a unique selling point that has made you fit for the position. Don’t be intimidated. Some employers use it as a means of physcology to get you to dance to their tune but as you show your confidence and express your enlightenment on your rights they will also sit up also.

  24. Chike

    January 11, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Bravo Ivie, fantastic work.

  25. Moji

    January 12, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Chai I am kicking my self. Just started a new job last week. I wish I had seen this before I signed that agreement

  26. fewwords

    July 5, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    During negotiations, never ever reveal how much you earn. Nobody has a right to that information (it’s your current employer’s proprietary information and your private matter). If it’s in a form enter 123456789 for numbers and NA if you can enter words.

    No matter what they say, it’s not mandatory and there’s already a a pay band for the role. Don’t cut yourself short. You could
    A) laugh over it if you’ve established a good rapport and say something like “I’d like to share my but current boss will not be happy about it lol” or “if you gave me N20million (or whatever 4x your desired salary would be) right now I wouldn’t complain. smile”

    B) be serious and say “I’m unable to disclose that. I’d like us to have an open and fair negotiation based on what I know I can do to make your business more successful. If I cant demonstrate that value then don’t make me an offer, and we can part as friends”, “we can talk about that later once we’re sure that we are a right fit” etc

    If asked what your salary expectations are, try to avoid it by using phrases like “i’m happy to talk about that once we’re sure that it’s a good fit”, “I’m excited to join the team and happy to discuss a complete offer package once made”, etc

    Echoing Jen31, once you have an offer you have the upper hand (regardless of how silly mannerless HR guys can be and try to make the situation out to be)

    Step 1- 1st move- Email them to thank them for the offer and say that you will go over and provide feedback by COB the following day (don’t feel rushed, they can wait. trust me)

    Step 2- Get informed – Speak to friends/ acquaintances and visit Glassdoor.com/ Nairaland.com to get a sense of what the average rate is. Also calculate the lowest rate you’re comfortable with and what would make you most comfortable.

    Step 3 – Go through the details checking for renumeration, 13th month, holiday allowance, equity, health insurance, pension contributions, professional development programs, organisational membership fees, transport/ car allowance (depending on your level) etc

    Step 4 – NEVER TAKE THE FIRST OFFER – somewhere around 25% is a good starting point for a counter offer (hopefully that amount is in your happy range) Reply thanking them for the offer and ask about 3 most relevant items from the following. 13th month, holiday allowance, equity, phone and data credit, office devices, health insurance, pension contributions, professional development programs, organisational membership fees, transport/ car allowance (depending on your level) etc. professional development programs are very good to highlight so you that you dont seem “greedy” 😀 Ask for 25% higher salary in the second paragraph saying that you feel that is more in line with the level of responsibility and deliverables expected

    Step 5- They’ll come back with a counter offer, which often might be their final offer. If you’re happy with it, graciously accept

    If you know they can do better, get in touch with the most senior person you interviewed with and say that you’re excited about working with them but will like an upward review of the salary. don’t be scared, the people that interviewed you, and not HR, know your value and how much they need you

    All the best!

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