Workers rights under the minimum wage Law

Workers rights to receive and be paid a national minimum wage have legal backing; it is a prescription of national laws. The instrument that established minimum wage made it clear that it is an offence for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage to employees except if the employer or employee fails within the exemption list as contained in section 2 subsection 1 a, b, c, d and e respectively.

It is important to note however that until the new bill is signed into law by the President it remains unenforceable. Once it is signed by the President it becomes a law, organizations are therefore bound to comply with the law.

A look at the amended bill by the House of Representative would further give credence to this, under Employer’s obligations in respect of minimum wage, it states

“… if the employer fails to (pay the minimum wage) do so, he is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N 75,000 and in the case of continuing office to a fine not exceeding N 10,000 for each day during which the offence continues”.

CAN INDIVIDUAL’S CONTRACT WAIVE THE RIGHT TO A MINIMUM WAGE?

Once the minimum wage bill is signed into law it automatically nullifies every other agreement or individual’s contract that pegged an employee’s wage below the minimum wage. Any contractual arrangement or agreement will become void and a nullity.

To justify the point made here, let’s look at the definition of Minimum wage given by the International Labour Organization: General Survey Concerning the minimum wage fixing convention 1970 (No. 131, and the Minimum wage fixing Recommendation 1970 (No. 135) which defines minimum wage as:

“… The minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period, which cannot be reduced by collective agreement or an individual contract.”

CAN AN EMPLOYER PAY ABOVE THE NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE?

Yes, an employer can pay entry level staff an amount higher than the national minimum wage. The doctrine of ability to pay should play out here. Also, value or worth of employee’s productivity could be a factor to consider.

In the words of Dr Chris Ngigi, Minister of Labour (2019), “The minimum wage figure does not preclude from being paid higher by the employer, depending on the employer’s financial capability”.

Unlike the Ordinance of Labourers (1349) and the Statute of Labourers (1351) which set a wage ceiling, selfishly decreed by King Edward 111, modern minimum wage laws give the employers the latitude to pay above the minimum wage but not below.

CONCLUSION

This article has pointed attention to workers right to earn a minimum wage, it pays attention to the requirements of the 2019 National Minimum Wage Act (Amended), it critically examines the qualifications and exemptions granted by the law.

It is hoped that it will be view as a guide and as an avenue for enlightenment.

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