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TERMINATION OF SERVICE – MASTER & SERVANT

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The law regarding master and servant is not in doubt. There is also no doubt that the contract of master and servant is subject to both statutory and common law rules. By and large, the master can terminate the contract with his servant at any time and for any reason or for no reason at all. But if he does so in a manner not warranted by the particular contract under review, he must pay damages for breach.

— A. Oputa, JSC. Olaniyan & Ors. v. University of Lagos (1985) – SC.53/1985

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EQUAL SALARY FOR EQUAL WORK CANNOT BE APPLIED WHERE PAYMENT SOURCES ARE DIFFERENT

Para. 30: “Indeed, the principle of equality of salary, which implies the elimination of salary discrimination based on whatever criteria that may relate to the person of the salaried worker, does not apply to the diversity of the sources of remuneration. Here, the salaries proposed by the Defendants are to be paid, not from the funds of the Commonwealth, but from the budget of the Defendants themselves. This was what was established as a principle, by Court of Justice of the European Union, in the 17th September 2002 Judgment on Lawrence and Regent Office Care Ltd. & Others (Report 1-07325-C.C.E.E.) when it stated that “the principle of equal work, equal salary, does not apply when the observed disparities in remuneration cannot be attributed to a single source’.”

— Essien v. The Gambia (2007) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/05/07

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CONCEPT OF EQUAL SALARY FOR EQUAL WORK

Para. 27: “In labour law, the concept of equal work for equal salary implies that two or several persons who carry out the same job occupy the same position in an organisation must earn the same remuneration and have the same prospects for promotion, except where the employer justifies a difference in treatment by objective factors not related to any form of discrimination. We hold that the objective of the principle of equal work for equal salary is to prohibit every form of discrimination between individuals who find themselves under the same condition.”

— Essien v. The Gambia (2007) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/05/07

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SCOPE OF EMPLOYER’S DUTY TO EMPLOYEE INCLUDES TAKING REASONABLE CARE

The law is of common that the scope of an employer’s duty to its employee to take reasonable care for the safety of his workman and other employee in the course of their employment, this duty extends in particular to the safety of place of work, the plant and machinery and the method and conduct of work. Duty of care as an act or omission, has its origin on the concept of foreseeability as decided in the old case of Heaven v. Pencher (1983) 11 QBD 503 at 509 where Bret M.R. said “Whenever one person is by circumstance placed in such a position with regard to another, that everyone of ordinary sense who did think would at once recognise that if he did not use ordinary care and skill in his own conduct with regard to the circumstances he would cause danger, injury to the person or property of the other, a duty arises to use ordinary care skill and avoid such danger.”

— O. Oyewumi, J. Aseidu v Japaul (2019) – NICN/AK/01/2016

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REPUDIATION BY ONE PARTY DOES NOT TERMINATE THE CONTRACT EXCEPT WHERE ACCEPTED

In Heyman v. Darwins Ltd. (1949) AC. 356, 361 Viscount Simon L.C. said, “But repudiation by one party standing alone does not terminate the contract. It takes two to end it, by repudiation on the one side, and acceptance of the repudiation on the other.” The proposition is founded on the elementary principles of the formation and discharge of contractual obligations. Where there is a unilateral repudiation of a contract, this is treated as an officer by the guilty part to the innocent party of the termination of the contract. It is the acceptance of the officer by the innocent party which acts as a discharge of the contract. – See Hochster H v. De La Tour (1853) 2 F& B. 678; Johnstone v. Milling (1886) 16 QBD 460. It is then open to the innocent party to sue only for damages since by his acceptance of the repudiation the contract comes to an end. Hence where the innocent party refuses to accept the repudiation the contract remains in existence.

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NOTICE FOR DISMISSAL MUST BE READ INTO CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT

The common law enjoins that even where the contract of employment does not stipulate a notice period, one that is reasonable must be read into the contract of employment. See Akumechiel v. BCC Ltd[1997] (Pt.484) 695 at 703 and Emuwa v. Consolidated Discounts Ltd [2000] LPELR-6871(CA);[2001] 2 NWLR (Pt.697)424. The Supreme Court in Olayinka Kusamotu v. Wemabod Estate Ltd [1976] LPELR-1720(SC); [1976] 9-10 SC (Reprint) 254 stated the law thus: The law is that, generally, the length of notice required for termination of contracts of employment depends on the intention of the parties as can or may be gathered from their contract and in the absence of any express provision, the courts will always imply a term that the employment may be terminated by a reasonable notice (from either of the parties); and even where (as clearly provided in clause 21(c) of “Exhibit “B” for persons still under probation) the employer has power to terminate the contract in his absolute discretion, the law enjoins the employer to give reasonable notice to the employee (see Re-African Association and Allen (1910) 1 KB 396).

— B.B. Kanyip, J. Awogu v TFG Real Estate (2018) – NICN/LA/262/2013 para. 60.

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WHEN IS AN EMPLOYMENT CLOTHED WITH STATUTORY FLAVOUR

In the case of Imoloame v West African Examination Council (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt.265) 303 at 317, Karibi- Whyte JSC dealing with when an employment is said to be clothed with statutory flavour said:- “…there is an employment with statutory flavour when the appointment and termination is governed by statutory provision. It is accepted that where the contract of service is governed by provision of statute or where the conditions of service are contained in regulations, derived from statutory provisions, they invest the employee with a legal status higher than the ordinary one of master and servant. They accordingly enjoy statutory flavour”. (See also Idoniboye-Obu v NNPC (2003) FWLR (Pt.146) 959 at 1004; Shitta-Bey v Federal Civil Service Commission (1981) 1 SC 40; Olaniyan v University of Lagos (2001) FWLR (Pt.56) 808; (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.9) 599; Eperokun v University of Lagos (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt.24) 162; Professor Dupe Olatunbosun v Niser (supra); Dr. Bamgboye v University of Ilorin (1999) 10 NWLR (Pt.622) 290)

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