Court orders Nigerian Breweries to include retirement policy in employee handbook

The National Industrial Court of Nigeria has asked Nigerian Breweries Plc to include its early retirement policy in its staff Handbook.

In his ruling, Justice Ogbuanya ordered the firm to specify the pre-qualification, notice period and severance package in order to avoid litigation of the policy.

A former Export Manager, Bala Muhammed, claimed that N5.3m was wrongfully deducted from his severance package when he opted for early retirement under the company’s Early Retirement Policy.

However, the brewing company said that the deduction was valid as it was the sum equivalent to five months’ salary in lieu of his early retirement notice.

The firm added that Muhammed was not entitled to full payment of the severance package without such deduction under the policy.

Justice Ogbuanya awarded a sum equivalent to three months to the claimant, noting that the sum represents the notice period established in evidence for exercise of termination right by an employee of Muhammed’s status.

“I find that there is no comprehensive policy document maintained by the defendant company evidencing the key aspects of the Early Retirement Policy, such as qualifying conditions, notice period and severance packages.

“The ‘Exhibit CB5’ (handbook) is not helpful in this regard. It is this kind of anomaly that triggers needless litigation (as in the instant case), and capable of brewing industrial disharmony,” Justice Ogbuanya held.

It was the judge’s considered view that best practice of labour relations entails that “such vital policy of a corporate organisation of the size of the defendant with retinue of workforce should not be left in doubt and hazy conjecture of its existence and practice”.

Justice Ogbuanya held that: “It should be unequivocally and clearly written in the major employment relations documents, such as the HR policy document of the company as well as the employee handbook.

“Accordingly, I take this opportunity to direct the defendant to take immediate steps to include and incorporate in the defendant’s HR policy and employee handbook the entitlement conditions and packages for early retirement as well as the exit notice period as expressed in the memo dated 20th October 2014, Ref.ERM.1222/2285 issued by the Head, Employee Relations. I so hold.”

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