Generally, employments in Nigeria fall within three categories and they are;
- Employment which is governed by statute;
- Employment by written contract of employment;
- Employment at will or servant holding an office at pleasure of employer or Master and servant relationship (usually done orally).
Generally, the principles of law governing the termination of an employment in Nigeria are dependent on the type of employment.
(i) Termination of an employment governed by statute.
This is an employment with statutory flavour. This invests the employee with a legal status than the ordinary one of master and servant. The termination therefore must be according to the provision of the relevant statute, otherwise the purported termination would be declared null and void by the court.
The fact that an organisation is a statutory body does not mean that the conditions of service of its employees are protected by statute.
(ii) Termination of an employment by written contract of employment
It is trite that where parties have entered into a contract or an agreement, they are bound by the provision of that contract or agreement as this is the whole essence of the doctrine of sanctity of contract. For a termination of employment to be lawful, it must be done in accordance with the provisions of the contract of employment.
(iii) Termination of employment at will
An employee in an employment at will hold office at the pleasure of the employer. Therefore, there are no special criteria for its termination; the employer can terminate the employment whenever he desires and it will not amount to wrongful termination.
Distinction Between Termination and Dismissal
In as much that they may both be used interchangeably, Termination and Dismissal are not one and the same, and also have different legal implications as well. Legally both termination and dismissal all imply removal from a particular employment, however, the consequences may vary. Dismissal may entail loss of benefits while termination may not.
1. Termination of employment is a right enjoyed by both employer and employee while Dismissal is the sole right of an employer.
2. Termination of employment is done within the period specified in the employment contract while dismissal is done instantly or in compliance with laid down disciplinary procedure of the employer.
3. Upon termination certain benefits may accrue to an employee such as gratuity while dismissal terminates the employment and may leave no room for entitlement to benefits.
4. Where termination is without notice the employee is entitled to his salary in lieu of such notice while if summarily dismissed, there is no requirement for such notice or salary in lieu.
5. While terminating a contract of employment, the motive which compels such termination is not relevant for both the employer and employee for it to be lawful, however, in dismissing an employee from work, the reason for such dismissal should be advanced.