The University of Medical Sciences in Ondo State has sparked controversy by implementing new leave policies that have raised concerns about their compatibility with Nigerian labor laws.
A circular issued on July 28, 2023, outlines these policies, including the prohibition of the Christmas break and a requirement for female staff members to request maternity leave six months prior to their expected due date.
The issued circular titled: “Update on Leave Matters”, was signed by the Principal Assistant Registrar, HR, Sunday V. Oluwadare for the Registrar and obtained by SaharaReporters.
According to the Circular, any staff applying for maternity and paternity leave must present marriage certificate or any other evidence of marriage.
The circular also stated that the University Management took the new at its 136th Statutory Meeting held on Monday, June 26, 2023.
“There would be no more Christmas break or ten (10) days deduction from the annual leave, as the academic session would run throughout the year.
“Staff members must ensure to utilise their leave during the academic break/leave year. Approval for leave deferment must be obtained before October of the leave year. Any leave deferment not approved and not utilized for the leave year should be deemed forfeited.
“Annual leave can only be deferred for two years. Maternity leave will be sixteen (16) weeks, while paternity leave will be fourteen (14) working days.
“Any staff member interested in proceeding on maternity/paternity leave must give six (6) months notice to the University Management and must present evidence of marriage. The above directive is for your information and strict compliance,” the circular stated.
Meanwhile, SaharaReporters gathered that the circular has been opposed to by the staff as the content of the circular offended the Nigerian labour laws.
Looking at the Legal Framework; the Nigeria’s principal employment and labour law legislation remains the Labour Act. However, the Act is limited in application as by virtue of section 91 it only applies to those defined as workers. Workers will typically be blue-collar workers and therefore its provisions do not apply to white-collar workers.
Maternity leave is provided for in section 54 of the Labour Act. By the provisions of the said section 54, every woman who provides medical evidence of the due date is entitled to leave her work for 12 weeks.
The section further provides that any woman who has worked for at least six months prior to her confinement shall be entitled to at least 50% of her monthly wages for the period of her confinement.
The rationale for maternity leave is to give women time to recover from the rigours of childbirth and time to bond with their new baby(s) as well as time to make arrangements for their care before returning to work.
With respect to annual holidays, section 18 of the Labour Act provides that every worker shall be entitled to at least 6 days paid leave after twelve months of continuous service and that this holiday can be deferred by agreement.
The rationale for granting annual holidays is for employees to take some time off work after a continuous period of work. Indeed, there are also health and safety considerations that drive the need for annual leave.