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The Co-Employer Principle – Need For Worries?

By Muyiwa Ogungbenro


Traditionally, employment relationships were strictly between two parties - the employer and the employee. Employment relations in Nigeria have evolved to modern-day employment relationships which includes agency contracts. A recent trend in employment disputes shows a disturbing trend to hold a third party responsible for employment contracts. This article examines the nature of co-employment in Nigeria and the attitude of courts in Nigeria to co-employment litigation. We also provide a guide of how to prevent unintended interpretation by the courts to employment contract.

Co-Employment Principle

Co-employment principle, also referred to as the triangular employment relationship, occurs when employees of an enterprise perform work for a client company - the end user -) to whom their employer provides labour or services1. It typically involves one or more third parties2. It can also take the form of an agency relationship where a private agency engages labour to supply or fill vacancies for another entity (the user enterprise). The agency then becomes an intermediary between the workers and the user enterprise. The typical issue is the difficulty in determining who is the workers' actual employer to enforce employment contracts.

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