The laws which govern employment occupy a position of considerable importance in any modern society. This is so because of the tremendous contributions which workers can make to national growth and development, as well as the general well-being of the nation’s citizenry. Labour law has a vital role to play in the mobilization of the work force for national growth. The major players in employment are essentially-the employer and the employee and whenever there is a contractual relationship between these two parties, the binding contract naturally brings about rights and duties which must be complied with. Their respective rights and duties have to be analyzed wholly in contractual terms. In many civilize countries, a case study of Nigerian, it has been observed from historical antecedents, a structured favour to employers over and above the employees liability arose. As much as it is an undisputed fact that employers reserve the right to dismiss alongside other rights, employees also have rights which they can also exercise. But in most circumstances, due to ignorance of many employees, the opportunity to challenge such unlawful acts of the employers elude them. Efforts has been made in this research projects to identify these problems, their causes and also solutions have been suggested in the concluding chapter for a need to reform the whole set up as it affects labor law and practice in Nigeria.
MEANING AND SCOPE, FORMATION, HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND BASIS OF LIABILITY.
1.1 Meaning and Scope of Contract of Employment
The contract of employment is a specie of contract, and is Therefore governed by general principles of the law of contract, consensusad item, Being a kind of simple contract, contract of employment must also satisfy the elements of a valid contract. The vitiating factors are also applicable to it. What distinguishes a contract of employment from a simple contract, which chitty defines as a promise or a set of promises which the law will enforce1, is the degree of control that one party has over the other party2. Also, a contract of employment relates to a relationship that exists between two or more persons for the performance of services, while one person is employed by the other. Where as, a contract relates to a relationship that exist between two or more persons in any transaction, generally.
Traditional statements of what constitute a contract of employment, place most emphasis on the power of the employer to control the work of the employee in contrast to a contract with an independent contractor.In Chadwick v. pioneer private telephone Ltd, contract of employment was defined thus: contract of services implies an obligation to serve and it comprises some degree of control by the master”3. It must howeverbe noted that there is no comprehensive definition, only conflicting criteria’s. A contract of employment can be defined as a contract entered in to by two parties whereby one party submits himself to the service of the other for some considerations in most casess salary and wages. An attempt has, however been made in the sphere of labour Legislations in Nigeria4 at defining a contract of employment as;
’’Any agreement whether oral or written, express or implied, whereby one person agrees to employ another as a worker and that other person agrees to serve the employer as a worker.”
It is a contract of service and not for service, what differentiates them is the fact that in a contract of service, a man (employee), places his labor at the disposal of another, resulting in a relationship between the to parties. Where as, a contract for services involve a situation where a man who operates an independent business agrees to do labor or carry out a task or tasks for the person of another. In past times, the contract of employment was known as and called a relationship of ‘’ master and servant”.
Since employment relationship strictly represents subordination of an individual as a worker to an employer, which relationship could be described as a dependent labor relationship, Mr. Y’s house keeper, gate keeper, driver or chauffeur is his employee, that a laundry man or a t-axi driver is an independent contractor5.
Thus, for a contract of employment to be distinguished from a contract for service, the parties involved must avail themselves of the statutory rights under it. That is, it must be shown that a relationship of employer and employee or master and servant exists between them. Thus, there must be terms agreed by both parties for this will be the sole principle which will guide their acts and conducts during the subsistence of the employment. As held by the court in SMITH V. GENERAL MOTOR CAB. CO6, where the claim for the existence of such relationship between the parties fails.