Legal Implications of Covid-19 on the Employers’ Duty to Provide a Safe Work Environment.

Chineze Sophia Ibekwe


World over, governmental, industrial, commercial, educational and virtually all types of facilities were shut down in an attempt to contain the spread of the novel corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic. After periods of complete shutdown during which enforced ‘stay at home’ and ‘social distancing’ policies were instilled into the populace, Nigeria has been gradually reopening her markets and work places. The aim of this paper is to contemplate the changes, adjustments and emphases in the Nigerian employment sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic as it relates to the employer’s duty to provide a safe work environment. The paper expands on the employers statutory and implied duty of care in the employment relationship. It interrogates the extent of an employer’s liabilities where an employee is infected at the place of work and whether having staff work remotely from home discharges the employer's work safety responsibility. The work also addresses whether there is a legal obligation on the employee to undergo medical tests before resuming work and the employee’s right to privacy of health information. Can an employee be dismissed for disobedience to lawful and reasonable instructions if he refuses to work as a result of the employer’s failure to provide a safe work environment and where said employee resigns, could such resignation be seen as constructive dismissal? In answering these potent questions, references are drawn from relevant statutes, decided cases, the Common Law, the National Policy on Occupational Safety and Health and precedents from foreign jurisdictions.

Key Words: Employer’s duty of dare, Covid-19 pandemic, Occupational safety and health law and policy, Employees compensation, Privacy of health information, Contract of employment in Nigeria.

DOI: 10.7176/JLPG/101-19

Publication date:September 30th 2020

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3240 ISSN (Online)2224-3259

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