Whether Deductions By States/Employers Without the Written Consent of Workers is Legal Under the Labour Act by Idrees Gambo, Esq.


Recently, there was a series of declarations by some states governments across Nigeria on deduction from their workers salaries purportedly, to used the proceeds to fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ravaging nations across the globe.

And it is very obvious that although, in most cases they make it look like the said deduction was done with the consent of the workers, but upon closer examination one easily but shockingly, discover that most of the workers only came to know of it from the news like anyone.

Meaning, there was no prior consultation let alone “CONSENT” from the workers. It is this very disturbing development that forces me to look at the Labour Act to see if I can answer this following question: What does the law say about deduction by employers from the salaries of their workers or employees?

The Labour Act has answered this question in a very certain way, when one consider the import of the provisions of section 5 to 6 of the Act. Which provides thus: “5.

(1) Except where it is expressly permitted by this Act or any other law, no employer shall make any deduction or make any agreement or contract with a worker for any deduction from the wages to be paid by the employer to the worker, or for any payment to the employer by the worker, for or in respect of any fines: Provided that, with the prior consent in writing of an authorized labour officer, a reasonable deduction may be made in respect of injury or loss caused to the employer by the willful misconduct or neglect of the worker.

(2) An employer may with the consent of a worker make deductions from the wages of the worker and pay to the appropriate person any contributions to provident or pension funds or other schemes agreed to by the worker and approved by the State Authority.

(3) Upon the registration and recognition of any of the trade union specified in Part A of Schedule 3 to the Trade Unions Act, the employer shall- (a) make deductions from the wages of all workers eligible to be members of the union for the purpose of paying contributions to the trade union so recognised; and (b) pay any sum so deducted to the union, but a worker may contract out of the system, in writing, and where he has done so, no deductions shall be made from his wages in respect of contributions mentioned in paragraph (a) of this section.

(4) No deductions shall be made from the wages and salaries of persons who are eligible members of any of the trade unions specified in Part B of the Schedule 3 to the Trade Unions Act except the person concerned has accepted, in writing, to make voluntary contributions to the trade union.

(5) Deductions may be made from the wages of a worker in respect of overpayment of wages, but only in respect of any such overpayment made during the three months immediately preceding the month in which the overpayment was discovered.

(6) An employer shall, when making a payment to a trade union under paragraph (b) of subsection (3) of this section, include with such payment a list of the employees from whom deductions were made pursuant to paragraph (c) of the said subsection

(7) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the total amount of deductions that may be made from the wages of a worker in any one month shall not exceed one-third of the wages of the worker for that month. 6. (1) The Minister may, after consultation with the State Authority, give approval to an employer to establish a shop for the sale of provisions to his workers, but no worker shall be compelled by any contract or agreement, written or oral, to purchase provisions at any shop so established. (2) No employer shall in any place of employment establish a shop for the sale of provisions to his workers (or permit such a shop to be established or kept) otherwise than in accordance with subsection (1) of this section.”

From the direct provisions of the Labour Act without the need for any commentary, it is clear that no employer reserves the right to make any deduction from the salary of any worker without his prior written consent as shown by section by Sections 5 and 6 of the Act. Therefore, it goes without saying that any attempt by any authority or person in that direction must remain an illegality, unless those deductions that are done in accordance with the Labour Act or any other relevant law in that regard.

Idrees is the principal partner at Idress & Co., (Al-Mufeed Law Firm), Bauchi State.


1 comment

  1. Wofai Jimmy Robert

    This, with the utmost respect is not a proper construction of the law. Perhaps a better understanding of labour law and practice is apposite to guide the author.

    Even by the very reading of s5 referred, the import is clear, being that the object of that section is to protect employees against deductions regarded as “fines”. That section is one of the many protective mechanisms against undue oppressive practices by employers against workers, such that even where the worker agrees to such fines, the agreement would still under the law of labour be regarded as an unduly restrictive covenant which is unenforceable against the worker.

    Whilst agreeing with the author that no deduction can be made without the consent of the worker, the basis on which the illegality of such deduction is premised is purely on the law of contract. Seeing that there is a frustrating event rendering the contract either fully or partially avoidable, the options available to the parties is either a determination of the employment by frustration, or a renegotiation of the terms. But to predicate the wrongfulness of the deductions on s5 and 6 as done by the author is misconceived and misleading.

    Be properly guided please. You can contact me for a more expounded invite on the position of the law the subject.

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