In recent times, I have had to attend to enquiries from employees, Human Resource Managers and individual business owners on issues that bother on Annual Leave Vacations, the position of the Nigerian Labour Law a on its legality, approved days of vacation, mode of payment, procedures and its relationship to sick and maternity leave entitlement.

It is important to states right from the outset that paid annual leave is a statutory provision that employees are entitled to as provided for by the Nigerian Labour Acts 1990 and other amendments. Section 18, subsection 1 of the Labour Act, states clearly Every worker shall be entitled after twelve months continuous service to a holiday with full pay of

a) At least six working days, or

b) In the case of a person under the age of sixteen years (including apprentices), at least twelve working days.

From the above citation, it is clear that annual leave is statutory and backed by law. However, the critical issues with most people hinges on its implementation, numbers of days that an employee should be entitled to, the minimum amount to be paid as leave allowance and the procedure to be followed in its implementation. Also, one contending issue is the misinterpretation of the word holiday in the provision of the act

Also for the purpose of clarity, the word holiday means leave or vacation or the period for which the employee is permitted off duties for the purpose of utilizing his or her leave earnings. This becomes important because leave is different from approved public holidays which are not and should not be included when computing the leave entitlement period.

For example, if an employees leave is twelve working days and there are approved public holidays say two days that fall within the approved leave period of twelve days, it then automatically means that the employee will earn his or her twelve days plus the two days of public holidays thereby making fourteen working days.

In this write-up, I will make effort to address all the highlighted issues and give clarifications to the annual leave imbroglio.


According to Wikipedia, Annual leave is paid time off work granted by employers to employees to be used for whatever the employee wishes The crucial elements of this definition are:

1) Annual. This means that it is an entitlement that is qualified for after a one-year continuous service or employment. It is an accumulated paid off duties vacation that an employee is qualified for after a one year or yearly service in an organization.

2) Annual Leave Allowance. Annual leave comes with pay. This means that employers are to pay their employee for the annual leave earning period or days. Does it mean that the employee earns an extra allowance other than his or her regular monthly income? The answer is yes. The employee is not only paid his or her full salary by month end but they are paid for the numbers of days for which they are entitled to leave.

3) Off Work. During the period of annual leave, an employee stays off work and is liberty to use his leave for whatsoever purpose that is best to him. It could be used for rest, personal development, travels/vacation or private endeavors.

4) It is given or granted by the employer. This means that there is an application and approval requirement for annual leave to be granted. It is must be done by the worker’s supervisor after operational needs must have been taken into cognizance. The fact that an employee attends twelve months of continuous does not automatically mean that he or she would take the annual leave automatically. It is must be properly scheduled in such a way that the companys operations does not suffers. And this does not also means that it should be denied or prolonged unnecessarily. It is must be planned and adequately structured by HR and the staff involved.

Section 18, subsection 2, of the Nigerian Labour Act is very clear on this and its states:
The holiday mentioned in subsection (1) of this section may be deferred by agreement between the employer and the worker: Provided that the holiday-earning period shall not thereby be increased beyond twenty-four months continuous service.
We sometimes have justification why an employee cannot continue in service beyond a period of time and such reasons will include: redundancy, termination of appointment, incapacitation and others. In such situation what does the act says?
Section 18, Subsection 4 states that Aperson who ceases to be employed after having
(a) Less than twelve but not less than six months in the continuous employment of an employer; or
(b) Not less than six months in the continuous employment of an employer since last qualified for a holiday under subsection (1) of this section,
shall be paid with respect to that period of employment an amount bearing the same proportion to full part for one week at his normal rate as that period bears to twelve months.
The standard practice is to pay an employee who has served up to six months on prorated basis which is a proportion of his leave entitlement had he or she completed twelve months of continuous service.
For example
If A is entitled to an annual leave allowance of N 35,000 for a leave period of 20 working days per annual, if he resigned his appointment seven (7) months or after his last leave, his terminal benefits would include the unearned period of his leave.
Prorated unearned Leave Allowance: N 35,000 * 7 / 12 = 20,416.67.67
Leave encashment for terminated staff is supported by the Nigerian Labour Act, but section 18, subsection 3, made it illegal and contravention of the law to pay those still in employment money in lieu of their annual vacation or leave.
It shall be unlawful for an employer to pay wages in lieu of the holiday mentioned in subsection (1) of this section to a worker whose contract has not terminated.


It is fashionable for young employees and those who have urgent needs for cash to want to demand for payment in lieu of notice without a properly understanding of the benefits of time off from regular day-to-day activity.
• The Need for Rest
The human body requires a significant amount of rest to enable it rejuvenate itself for better performance, and it will be unfair to treat the body as an unserviceable machine that would finally break down under pressure. So, from medical point of view it is important to take some times off work for rest and other activities.
• The Need to Gain New Perspectives
The question has been asked that about what the employee do with their leave vacation, the important answer is whatever they do during this time is good for their mind , understanding of their environment and self. When you are free from a monotonous daily routine, your senses and mind tends to perceives and process information differently.
• The Need to Correct Negative Impressions
Annual Leave holiday helps the organization erased the misconception of without-me the organization cannot survived mind-set. My experience in organizational change and re-engineering shows that most HR or entrepreneur unconsciously creates the impression in the mind s of their staff that they (employees) are indispensable when they refused to allow them take some days off. It is good for the health of the organization that staffers are allowed to take their leave.
• The Need to Portray the Organization as a Responsible Corporate Citizen
Enhancement of companys image. Corporate image-building are deliberate actions aimed at portraying the organization as a responsible corporate person. Good image is seen as a competitive edge and attracts the best hands to the organization. Good hands would like to take job roles in organizations that obey the laws and protect their interest including vacation.
• The Need to Develop Leaders from within the Organization
When staff precedes on leave other people or an immediate subordinate is given opportunity to act as a reliever in the place of the worker on leave. This arrangement has often brought out the best from such subordinates who show leadership and bring new ideas on board. When you give people the opportunities to act most of the time its brings out the best in them.
Section 18, gave an insight to this, it explains that the minimum leave earning period shall be 6 working days while in the case of persons under the age of 12 including apprentices it shall be twelve working days of paid leave.
Citation below:
Section 18, subsection 1 Every worker shall be entitled after twelve months continuous service to a holiday with full pay of
(a) at least six working days; or
(b) in the case of persons under the age of sixteen years (including apprentices), at least twelve working days.
However, by practice and agreement, major adjustment is made to this as we have junior workers who earn as much as two weeks to as much as 20 days and above. This is particularly so in the oil sector where the union and management have collectively agreed on condition of service.
The Act allows for such flexibility and negotiation as can be seen in section 18, subsection 2 which states as follows
The holiday mentioned in subsection (1) of this section may be deferred by agreement between the employer and the worker
It is however, appropriate to correct the erroneous impression which some hold onto which can be seen in the workmen Compensation Act. Let us look at that section Subject to the workmen Compensation Act, a worker shall be entitled to be paid wage up to twelve working days in any one calendar years during absence from work caused by temporary illness certified by a registered medical practitioner. Nigerian Labour Act, 1990 Section 16.
It is also clear from the foregoing that the reference to twelve days is for health or sickness related off work payment as against annual leave or vacation pay.
The honest truth about days and leave entitlement period is dependent on conditions of service or contract of employment, agreement reached with the employee (Non-Discriminating standard practice in the organization), collective agreement and industry practice.
Section 7, subsection 1 (g) provides that holiday and holiday pay should form part of employment contract or condition of service that should be in written form and given to the employee not later than six months of his or her appointment.
Its stated that
(g) any terms and conditions relating to-
(i) hours of work, or
(ii) holidays and holiday pay, or
(iii) incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including any provisions for sick pay; €¦
Must be stated in written, so leave entitlement days and payment should be agreed upon at the point when the employment agreement is being negotiated and contracted


1 Angola Workers are entitled to 22 working days per year, excluding weekends and approved rest days and public holidays.

2 Algeria Calculated on the basis of 2 and ½ days per month, but the total numbers of the days cannot exceed 30 calendar days per year.

3 Argentina 14 calendar days from 0-5 years
21 Calendar days from 5 to 10 years
28 calendar days from 10 to 20 years
35 calendar days from 20 and above

4 Benin Republic 2 working days per month of effective service. The law in Benin however, states that unless there is a favourable provisions in collective agreements or contract of employment the above condition shall suffice.

5 Brazil The length of annual leave is dependent on the numbers of absence from work by the employee.
30 days when the worker was absence from work for more than 5 days. 24 days when absence between 6 to 14 days, 18 days of leave when absence between 5 to 23 days and 12 days when absence between 24 to 32 days.

6 Burkina Faso 2 ½ ( Two and half days) per month spent in the service of the employer for a continuous one year of employment.

7 Kenya Employees are entitled to not less than 21 working days after twelve consecutive month of active service with the employer
10 South Korea 15 days for workers who have worked up to a period of three years, one day will thereafter be added to every one year continuously worked but not more than 25 days of leave.

11 United States of American There is no law in the United States that require employers to provide paid vacation or annual leave to its employees. Employers are at liberty to offer their employees paid leave. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 10 days paid leave is offer by private employers. It is however, not mandatory by law.

12 Uruguay Public and private sector workers are entitled to a minimum of 20days of annual leave.

13 United Kingdom In the United Kingdom, employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks annual leave that is 28 days of paid leave in addition to the 8 days of public and banks holidays which are not paid for. It is of equal importance to say that leave period is often associated with the number of years in service to a maximum of 30 days per year
A look at the cross countries evaluation shows that leave earning periods are mostly provided for by law except in the United States where is not prescribed by law but it is being observed by most organizations. It is however important to states that in all countries x-rated here, workers are entitled to both annual leaves and approved public holidays that are exclusive of annual leave.
Also, I believe we can learn from some of the countries and enriches our practice as a nation. In some countries leave entitlements are accumulated and it ultimately accrued to the workers. While in some jurisprudence it is related to efficient performance for the period of a year.
The impression of just waiting to earn leave even while no meaningful value has been added by employees in the course of the year could be eliminated and then gradually build in the Nigerian workforce a culture of value for money.
Annual leave is different from sick leave and they dont in any way affect the length of each other. So the practice where the annual leave of a staff is deducted from the numbers of days spent in attending to ill-health is illegal and against the law.


Procedurally, the employee is expected to make a formal request for annual leave on or before the completion of one year of continuous service.

This application should be made through his or her immediate supervisor; who will endorse same and send it to HR. The reason for this is to ensure that operation is not affected negatively due to the shortage of manpower necessitated by absence from work by the worker.

It is not right for HR to haphazardly grant leave approval without the line managers or supervisors approval. I have seen this create unnecessary bickering in most organizations.

HR should give a formal approval in writing stating the start date of the leave and when the staff should report back to work.

Also, the approved letter should be copied to the line manager or direct supervisor and the Finance and Account department for the processing of the annual leave allowance.

Application and approval letter should be kept in both personal files of the worker and the personnel or HR file.

It is important to note that proper documentation should be done because during staffs annual leave vacations they still remain in the employment of the company and you have the duty of care over them.

It is important to ask an employee in the application form where they will be spending their leave and if they will be traveling outside their state of cities of work. This will enable HR to relate with them in case of emergencies or operational exigencies. For example, when I worked for an industrial catering company in Rivers State in Nigeria, we got a contract with the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company and it was necessary that we mobilized to site all most immediately, we would put the best hands together because of the short notice is given to us. This necessitated the recall of our most senior Chef from his annual leave vacation. Imagine if there was no contact how difficult it would have been for us.

It is appropriate to call the worker a week before resumption and intelligently remind him or her of the resumption date. We have cases where the employee picked up another appointment without recourse to present employer. Such knowledge will allow HR plan adequately for a replacement or put a hold on other staff leave pending when such replacement was found.


Scheduling staff leaves and vacations require adequate and careful planning more so as most staff will fall due on the anniversary of their employment. In a situation, where people started a new operation on the same day, if they all asked for leave on the anniversary of their employment it means a total collapse of operation.

My suggestion is for HR and line managers to plan ahead of time by properly scheduling workers leave for different months and time without exceeding the 24 months deferment time frame.

The standard practice is to design a Leave Roster which is sent to the supervisors or line Managers. The line Managers will, in turn, discuss with the employees on when they would have their annual leave scheduled for the year. When all necessary adjustments are made and clashes in dates ironed out then the roster can be returned to HR for documentation and implementation.


Section 19, of the Labour Act, gives information on the basis for computation of leave or sick benefits when its stated inter alia that
In the calculation of leave pay and sickness benefits only that part of his wages which a worker receives in money (excluding overtime and other allowances) shall be taken into account.
This means that depending on the agreed percentage either determined by a contract of employment or collective agreement, the computation shall be based on the staff annual base pay That is Basic + Housing + Transportation excluding other allowances, bonuses, overtime rates etc.
I have equally seen an organization where leave pay is computed as a factor of Annual Basic salary thereby excluding Housing and transportation allowance.
However, in order not to sound too prescriptive, it is important that the principle of collective agreement, contract of employment, practices within a sector or industry be taken into consideration when computing leave allowance.
An organization can decide to do more but the fundamental rest on section 19 of the Act.


It is intended that this article will be further expanded upon to cover other leave related matters such as maternity leave, compassionate, study leave and examination leave. Its also planned to look at specific organizations and the government agencies if such permission is given.

In the overall, the objective of this blog article is to clarify some of the gray issues surrounding the interpretation of the provision of the Nigerian labor Act regarding annual leave allowance and its implementation. I sincerely hope that this article has been helpful to you and I will be willing to answer your questions on this and other posts that I have written.


Alan Cave ” Managing Change in the Workplace New Approaches to Employee Relations” Coopers & Lybrand 1994

Nigerian Labour Act 1990

Rebecca R. Milla Sanes and John Schmitt ” No Vacation Nation, Revisited” May 2013. Center for Economic and Policy Research ( CEPR)

Sola Fajana, ” Human Resource Management An Introduction” Labofin and Company, Lagos. 2006

Nwagbo Eze ” African Industrial – Organizational Psychology” Pumark Nigeria Limited. 2004


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    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Hi Philip
      By standard processes and procedure, any income or earning by a worker is subject
      to some amount of taxation or the other. Depending on the state of your operation you may
      have a different rate.
      kindly ask for the tax manual from a tax office near you and get more details.
      In some instances it is subjected to withholding
      tax but if it can be properly managed it may be processed as PAYE.
      Hope this helps?

  1. Good day Mr. Kayode,

    I work in an organization where leave allowance is not properly calculated. Please can you help me with the standard percentage for leave calculation. Also I appreciate your patience and response to people’s question and for taking out time to write such an insightful article. Thank you so much

    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Thanks for the compliment Kikilomo,
      Kindly note that the percentage of annual leave allowance is different for different organizations.
      I believe this should ideally be stated in your contract of employment or the company’s handbook. Once
      you are sure of the rate the calculation becomes a lot easier. Generally, leave allowance is a percentage
      of the staff annual basic salary. For example, a staff whose basic salary is N 50,000 and have
      a leave allowance given as 10% will have his leave allowance computed as 50,000*12*10/100 = N 60,000.
      The key criterion is that it is a percentage of the staff annual basic salary.
      Hope this helps?
      Best regards

      • Hello, i started work in an organization 20th of January 2018. i went on leave July 25th 2018(when i read in my contract that i could take leave earlier than 12months if granted by some key people) however upon resumption, HR deducted my salary for those days i was on leave and said i was not yet entitled to leave. now my question is this 21st January 2019 makes it one year. do i get my complete leave days for 2018 since my salary was deducted last year? and as at 2019, will i still get any days as leaave

        • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

          Hi Stephanie,
          Thanks for your questions.
          HR is right because you were not due for leave when you took it. It is appropriate that approval
          for such leave should be granted by HR. By deducting from your salary HR has treated your
          leave as unauthorized and the deduction was for absenteeism.
          When you become due on the anniversary of your employment you will be granted your full leave
          days since the penalty for the one earlier taken had been paid for.
          I hope this helps

  2. Kingsley Obinwanne says:

    Hi Kayode,

    Your analysis on annual and related matters is very educative. However, I don’t understand it when you said “Intelligently too, since annual leave is earned what I advised is that you build annual leave pay into your staff salary.” How does this work?

    Please explain in details.

    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Hi Austin,
      The standard practice is to pay upon the commencement of the leave. However, a lot of flexibility is observed by the organizations for financial planning purposes. Some organization pay on a monthly basis so as to reduce the burden of paying a lump sum ( Divide the total allowance by 12 and make it part of the employee’s salary per month), others pay at the anniversary of the employee’s employment whether the staff is going on leave right away or not ( Operational reason). The standard practice, however, is to pay upon the commencement of the leave. Hope this helps? Regards

  3. Emanuel Sarnacki says:

    Aw, this was a very nice post. In concept I would like to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and precise effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means appear to get something done.

  4. Ivan Kalandek says:

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn anything like this before. So nice to seek out any individual with some original ideas on this subject. realy thanks for beginning this up. this web site is one thing that’s needed on the net, someone with a bit of originality. helpful job for bringing something new to the web!

  5. Thank you for your insight.
    I recently resigned from my current employment. Based on my employment letter, I am required to give 3 months notice or payment in Lieu. I started working with the organisation on November 1 , 2013. I am entitled to 21 working leave days. For the previous 2 years I have 19 days and 10 days outstanding leave respectively. Upon resignation my HR tells me I am only entitled to 7days pro rata leave days for the current year. Can I use my outstanding leave days to offset part of my notice period? Also, if I am paying in Lieu for one month, is the to be included in the calculation of my terminal benefits? I am really confused. I will appreciate your response

    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Hi Dela,
      On your questions, I would like to know if the deferment of your outstanding leave were at the instance of your organization? Also, were you paid leave encashment for the unused leave period? If such requests were approved and you were not paid encashment you have the right to demand payment for the outstanding leave earning days. On the issue of notice, the reasons for such demand is to ensure that you did a proper handover and make sure that operation is not negatively affected by your resignation. However, since you have the option of payment in lieu of notice you can discuss with HR to trade the outstanding leave period for the 3 months notice. But please ensure that it is documented and agreed to.

      • Hi Kayode,

        thank you so much for the swift response.

        I was on able to proceed on the leave because of business demands. There was not formal agreement to defer my outstanding leave. the assumption is that, I am entitled to it but did not enjoy the benefit. I was paid leave allowance for the unused leave period.

        I really do appreciate your insight and feedback.

        God bless you!!!

  6. I have a little challenge about my ex employer. I worked there for about five years before I resigned. Through out 2018, I couldn’t go on leave because of lack of personnel as company informed that there was an embargo on employment. I resigned DEC 23 with adequate notice and I was paid about 18% of my monthly net income as leave compensation (pay for not going on leave). I am seriously disappointed as I expected to be paid a full month’s salary as compensation. Also, a month unearned leave allowance was deducted from my pay bearing in mind that I worked the whole year and till 23rd of December. My question is ” Is the payment for cashed out annual leave supposed to be the same as what the employee would have been paid if they took the leave?” Also the unearned leave deducted should be cos I worked till 23rd of DEC 2018

    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Hi Deola,
      Thanks for your question, if I get you right, you gave the required notice but wasn’t paid for the period
      in question ( December 2018 salary). If my interpretation reflects your question correctly, please note that
      you are entitled to a full salary for the month of December 2018. The notice does not mean forfeiture of your
      pay for the notice period. Notices are to allow for proper hand-over and check on both sides.
      Approach your HR and demand for the payment of your full salary.

  7. Thanks for this article. It was very insightful. I had a little problem with my ex employer. I resigned last DEC 2018 and worked till 23rd of December with adequate notice. During the course of the year I couldn’t go on leave due to lack of sufficient staff to do the work. Upon exit, I demanded that I be paid for my entitled leave and I was expecting one month’s salary to be paid to me. The situation was different, I got about 18% of my monthly net income and this is still bothering me. If I had gone on leave while still at the company, I would have been paid a month salary. I also noticed that a month’s unearned leave allowance was deducted from my leave allowance after working till 23rd of December. This is a company I have worked for 5years plus. I would like to know your view on this. Thanks

    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Hi Deola,
      Thanks for your question, if I get you right, you gave the required notice but wasn’t paid for the period
      in question ( December 2018 salary). If my interpretation reflects your question correctly, please note that
      you are entitled to a full salary for the month of December 2018. The notice does not mean forfeiture of your
      pay for the notice period. Notices are to allow for proper hand-over and check on both sides.
      Approach your HR and demand for the payment of your full salary.

  8. Hello Aly, thank you for the write up i just read on annual leave and its allowance,thank you for making it very explanatory and easy to understand in lay mans terms. Please my question is is there anything like study/training leave in the NLL and if there is, what is the functionality, i mean the process to apply and what implications does it have if any.
    Thank you

    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Thanks for your questions on annual leave/study leave.
      It is important to make the distinction among Annual Leave, Study leave and training leave
      they are different. Annual leave is statutory and regulated by Law while study leave and training
      leave attendance are regulated by a company’s internal policy or handbook. You earn annual leave for
      the reasons of your continuous employment for a period of one year. On the other hand, training leave
      is subject to approval by your company’s management. Training could be self-sponsored or company’s sponsored
      likewise is study leave. Training leave is short in duration while study leave could be for an extended period of
      time. To your question, depending on your company’s policy or the understanding with HR/management study leave
      can be annual leave consuming, meaning that it can be built into your study leave if it is going to be a long duration.
      Because there is no strict provision governing study and training leave in the Labour Act it is advisable that you read your company’s
      handbook and have a proper understanding of the internal policies governing this.
      Wishing you well

  9. Hello there,

    My name is Aly and I would like to know if you would have any interest to have your website here at promoted as a resource on our blog ?

    We are in the midst of updating our broken link resources to include current and up to date resources for our readers. Our resource links are manually approved allowing us to mark a link as a do-follow link as well
    If you may be interested please in being included as a resource on our blog, please let me know.


    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Hi Adeola,

      Thanks for your question. I may not be able to give a straight answer to your question except I have full details of the circumstances
      of the sick leave. For example, was the sick leave approved by your organization or HR? Were the approved dates exceeded?
      If the approved dates were exceeded was it at the instance of a medical report and was the organization informed of such development?
      If you got proper approval and provided the adequate notifications the next question is what does the organization rule book says about
      leave and sick leave?

      I must make it clear that sick leave is different from annual leave and one may not be alternated for the other. But where approval is not gotten or the sickness was such that the staff was absent from work for a very “long period” of time it will be reasonable to make such a conversion or for the staff to forfeit his or her annual leave in the same period.

      Having said this, it is important that you discuss with HR and get the fact of the matter.

      Thank you,

  10. The Nigerian Labour Law says: A worker is entitled to annual leave of at least six working days with full salary. My questions are:
    1) Is that full salary the allowance or is there any other pay different from the full salary?
    2) What Nigerian Law or By-Law or Circular specifically provides for leave allowance, because the word ‘allowance’ is not mentioned in the Nigerian Labour Law or its ammendmends or in any Circular. So, from where do Nigerian employers get the idea of paying a leave allowance apart from the full salary?

    Thanks a million

    • Kayode Ibukunoluwa-Micah says:

      Thank you, Johnson, for your questions.

      It is important to note that staff salaries are paid in full during the leave period, meaning that if an employee
      is on his or her statutory annual leave his full salary should not be affected. I am sure you are clear with that.

      Secondly, full salary as stated by the Acts is different from leave allowance, though it may not be written, in Law
      there is what we describe as conventions and practices; meaning that this is a practice that has come to stay,
      leave allowance should be paid separately and in addition to the employee’s salary.

      You will also note that the Labour Union over the years has successfully fought for leave allowance to be made part of workers’ entitlement either through negotiation or collective bargaining hence it has come to stay in Nigeria. To this extent, Section 7, subsection
      1 (g) of the Nigerian Labour Acts provides that Leave duration and leave pay should form part of the employment contract of employment.

      The guideline, however, is to find out what is the practice within your industry, this will give you a view of what percentage of salary should be paid out as leave allowance. However, going by my experience the benchmark is 10% of an employee’s annual basic. Intelligently too, since annual leave is earned what I advised is that you build annual leave pay into your staff salary.

      I hope this helps

      Best regards

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