TABLE OF CONTENTS
Purpose of the Code
Part 1: General Background
The Private Employment Agencies (PEA)
The Code of Conduct
Guiding Principles of the Code of Conduct
Part 2: Responsibilities of PEA to Stakeholders
Duties to Clients (Hiring Companies)
Duties to Prospective Employees
Part 3: Recruitment from outside Nigeria
Part 4: Recruitment to work outside Nigeria
Part 5: Breach of the Code of Conduct
Part 6: Disciplinary Procedures
Part 7: Sanctions for Breach of the Code of Conduct
Organisations that have weathered the storm of economic vagaries and grown to attain stability and relevance are known to be guided by principles, cultures and Codes, which direct their affairs. The imperative for a code to regulate and set standards of operation could not be more relevant than in a developing economy like Nigeria and in a building industry such as the Human Capital Providers’ industry.
Private Employment Agencies (PEAs) play a critical role in the labour market, with many businesses considering them essential to ensure that the demand for labour in both local and international markets is met. Many workers choose agency work because of their circumstances and the greater flexibility PEAs provide. Agency workers are also important in meeting the seasonal needs of some employers. For some workers, agencies act as a gateway to securing permanent work. On the other hand, some workers choose temporary work because it allows them to better balance their work with other commitments. Agency work can also appeal to some job – seekers because it offers the opportunity to learn new skills or try new jobs before changing careers. The vast majority of employment agencies are reputable and professional. However, there are a few agencies which exploit workers, particularly those that are vulnerable.
In recent years, the proliferation of Private Employment Agencies and the challenge of curtailing unwholesome activities have raised the concern of stakeholders. Thus in an attempt to regulate and set standards for the operations of Private Employment Agencies , this Code of Conduct becomes germane , not only to set standards of best practices , but also to nip in the bud the ever alarming global threat of unwholesome labour practices and human trafficking.
PEAs expect high standards of ethical behaviour from its members and to support the expectations, this code of conduct was developed. It aims to outline the professional conduct and behaviour required of registered and approved employment agencies. It stipulates the expected behaviour and conduct using six values, which underpin the profession: integrity, dignity, responsibility, respect, justice, and care. This code represents NECA’s long tradition of fostering corporate ethics and best practices. It provides a principle- based approach that acknowledges the peculiarities of our environment and dynamics of the private recruitment industry. It is hoped that registered private employment agencies will use the code along with employer codes/policies and other professional codes to guide their professional conduct and behaviour.
We are, indeed, happy, to be involved in the crafting of this Code of Conduct, which is as a result of the collaborative efforts of Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) – an association of Private Employment Agencies in Nigeria. Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), who provided the financial and technical support under the aegis of the European Union funded project “Enhancing the Cooperation to Fight Trafficking in Human Beings from Nigeria to Europe”. The ILO engaged Professor Olusola Fajana, to lead the development of the Code of Conduct, together with the Executive members of HuCaPAN and Ms. Chinyere Emeka- Anuna, ILO Programme Coordinator for the Human Trafficking Project. Ms. Beate Andrees, Head, SAP-FL Unit and Natan Elkin of ILO Geneva, provided important inputs to the code . Acknowledgement is further due to Ms. Sina Chuma-Mkandawire, Director, ILO Abuja Country Office, Dennis Zulu, Chief of Programmes, ILO Abuja and ILO Abuja Programme Staff, who supported this endeavour and contributed valuable comments to the code.
We urge all, Private Employment Agencies to ensure the application of this Code of Conduct as its use will usher in a new phase in the evolution of this nascent industry and foster a healthy expansion.
O. A. Oshinowo,
Director General, NECA
EU European Union
FMLP Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity
HuCaPAN Human Capital Providers’ Association of Nigeria
ILO International Labour Organisation
NAPTIP National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons
NECA Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association
PEA Private Employment Agencies
SAP-FL Special Action Programme – Forced Labour
It is worthy of note that the publications of a Code of Conduct is important for many reasons. Even though it provides guidance to those who are bound by it, a code of conduct is a statement of commitment about how a group or organisations expect to be perceived and, ultimately, judged. This is nowhere more than the case in the private employment sector, which in some way or other, touches everyone in the community. The actions of each and every member of the sector will shape the way the members, their organisations and the sector as a whole is perceived.
The private sector continues to evolve and adapt to meet new and ever- changing business demands and environmental challenges. At the same time, it is essential that this sector retain the key attributes that have allowed it to play its critical role with the full confidence of Government and the wider the community for many years. These key attributes are its apolitical nature, responsiveness, effectiveness and accountability; and it is precisely these values that this Code seeks to reinforce and project.
The Private Employment Agencies is gaining ground the world. Services provided by Private Employment Agencies represent modern answer to reconcile the requirement of labour flexibility for user companies and the need of work security for employees. Being aware of such a social responsibility, the Private Employment Agency has adopted , for many years , national codes of conduct at country level .In view of the growing importance of the Agency’s work and the need for strengthening self – regulation principles in order to enhances the quality standards of the sector , the Human Capital Providers’ Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) in collaboration with the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) , the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) established a Code of Conduct, specific to the Nigeria situation, which provides generally agreed principles on Private Employment Agency practices.
PURPOSE OF THE CODE
We affirm that the credibility and reputation of the Private Employment sector is shaped by the collective conduct of individual Private Employment Agencies.
The purpose of the Code of Conduct is to install, confidence and sanity in the Industry and to help PEA become better service providers. It describes the business ethics expectations placed upon the Actors in the industry.
This Code articulates the deals to which Private Employment Agencies aspire as well as the behaviours and conducts that are admissible and mandatory in the industry. It is truly believed that Private Employment Agencies can advance the business, both individually and collectively, by embracing this Code of Conduct.
THE PRIVATE EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES (PEA)
The Private Employment Agencies are companies that are involved directly or indirectly with recruitment, selection, and placement (and in some case, the management) of employees, skilled and unskilled for themselves and other companies. They are involved in the process of matching employees to employers and vice versa. The Private Agency Concept has weathered many storms and the industry’s resilience has led to the seeming boom of its activities in the 21st century.
For most of the twentieth century, Private Employment Agencies were considered quasi illegal entities under international law. To prevent the abusive practices of private agencies, they were either to be fully abolished, or tightly regulated. In most countries they are legal but regulated.
In Nigeria, Recruiter’s is issued by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity in accordance with the provisions of sections 23, 24, 25 and 71 of the Labour Act. These provisions of the law empower the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to issue Recruiter’s License to organisations it considers fit and proper to carry out the business of recruiting and supplying manpower in an outsourcing relationship with third parties.
As presently obtained in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) regulates the nascent industry and Human Capital Providers’ Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) has the status of an Employers’ Association.
THE CODE OF CONDUCT
This Code of Conduct set out the principles that shall guide the Private Employment Industry. The standards in this Code of Conduct shall be observed by all those involved in Private employment industry in Nigeria. This principle based approach is intended to maintain and enhance consistency, fairness, transparency, accountability and diversity in recruitment practices.
This Code provides Private Employment Agencies with a clear and concise guide to the approach it must take to ensure a fair, open and transparent process that produces a quality outcome and commands public confidence. It is intended to contribute to the development of best practice in the field of recruitment and general human capital development.
This Code of Conduct shall provide a framework based on the global best-practice employment principles. It recognized that Private Employment Agencies require flexibility to deal efficiently and effectively with the diverse range of services they provide. Accordingly, the Code shall enable Private Employment Agencies to adopt strategies and develop processes to implement the principles effectively. All agreements signed under this Code must also comply with relevant employment and equality legislation in Nigeria.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT
This Code applies the principles of transparency, fairness and mutuality of benefits as it relates to relationships among Private Employment Agencies, prospective employees, employers, host communities, the public principles of this Code of Conduct shall be:
Principle 1 – Respect for Ethical and Professional Conduct
Private Employment Agencies (hereinafter referred to as PEAs) shall observe the highest principles of ethics, integrity, professional conduct and fair practice in dealing with employees and all other relevant stakeholders, and shall conduct the business in a manner designed to enhance the operations, image and reputation of the industry.
Principle 2 – Respect for Laws
PEAs shall comply with all relevant legislation, statutory and non-statutory requirements and official guidance covering Private Employment Agencies in Nigeria.
Principle 3 – Respect for Transparency of Terms of Engagement
PEAs shall ensure that workers are given details of their working conditions, the nature of the work to be undertaken, rates of pay and pay arrangements and working hours. This principle obligates Private Employment Agencies to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship.
Principle 4 – Respect for free-of-charge provision of services to jobseekers
PEAs shall not charge directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, any fees or costs to prospective employees and workers, for the services directly related to temporary assignment or permanent placement.
Principle 5 – Respect for Health and Safety at Work
PEAs shall act diligently in assessing risks related to health and safety prior to the assignment of agency workers in their workplace. PEAs shall inform agency workers whenever they have reason to believe that any particular assignment could cause an occupational health or safety risk.
Principle 6 – Respect for Diversity
Private Employment Agencies shall establish working practices that safeguard against any unlawful or unethical discrimination.
Principle 7 – Respect for the Worker’s Rights
71. Equitable, objective and transparent principles for the calculation of agency workers’ wages shall be promoted, considering national legislation and practices.
7.2 PEAs shall not restrict agency workers’ right of freedom of association.
7.3 PEAs shall not make workers available to a user company to replace workers of that company who are legally on strike.
Principle 8 – Respect for Confidentiality
PEAs shall ensure confidentiality in all of their dealings. They shall ensure that permission has been obtained before disclosing, displaying or submitting employment related information to third parties.
Principle 9 – Respect for Professional Knowledge and Quality of Service
PEAs and their Clients shall ensure that their staff are adequately trained.
Principle 10 – Respect for Fair Competition
PEAs shall assure mutual relations based on fair competition.
Principle 11: Social Dialogue
PEAs shall promote social dialogue as a means to ensure industrial harmony in the workplace.
Principle 12: Commitment to Professional Development
PEAs shall ensure that they are well informed about recruitment practices and that they continually seek to improve their knowledge and skills.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF PRIVATE EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES TO STAKEHOLDERS
Organizations operating in the Private Employment Industry shall make conscientious efforts to maintain decent and respectable relationships with stakeholders. These relationships shall be guided by these standards, which are not exhaustive:
2.1.1 Respect for Work relationships
(a) In order to establish trust and build productive work relationships, Private Employment Agencies shall exercise care and due diligence to all Stakeholders.
(b) Private Employment Agencies shall apply ethical and professional approach to customer service at all times.
2.1.2 Respect for honesty and transparency
(a) PEAs shall act at all times with integrity, honesty and ethical standards.
(b) PEAs shall not engage in any activity which would bring the private employment industry, the Human Capital Providers’ Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN), Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Ministry of Labour and Productivity, or the Nation into disrepute.
2.1.3 Respect for confidentiality and Privacy
(a) PEAs shall observe and respect the confidentiality of clients and prospective employees and ensure that this is maintained at all times.
(b) PEAs shall make sure that they know what steps to take in order to ensure that this is maintained at all times.
2.14 Respect for laws
(a) PEAs shall comply with all relevant legislation, statutory and non-statutory codes and official guidance that will impact on their role in recruitment and outsourcing.
(b) PEAs shall make sure that they know what steps to take in order to ensure compliance with relevant Legislations applicable to Employment Agency, Child Labour, Human Trafficking and other relevant legislations.
(c) PEAs shall advise and where necessary guide clients on Legislations relating to Expatriates Quota, Immigration and other salient issues directly or indirectly relating to the industry.
2.1.5 Respect for diversity
(a) PEAs shall ensure that they treat all clients and prospective employees with dignity and respect, and aim to provide employment opportunities based on objective business and competency related criteria.
(b) PEAs shall always promote fair recruitment practices without prejudice to religion, Tribe, place of birth or colour of skin or gender. In the placement of Job Vacancies.
(c) PEAs shall state whether the Job is available or the advert is for the purpose of data base
(d) PEAs shall not act on an instruction from a client that may be discriminatory and, where possible, shall provide guidance to clients in respect of good diversity practice.
2.2 DUTIES TO CLIENTS (HIRING COMPANIES)
2.2.1 On initial contact with a client, PEAs shall provided clear and accurate information about the services they may provide, including but not limited to, clear written terms of business, policies regarding checking of references, qualifications and obtaining criminal records where relevant.
2.2.2 PEAs shall submit or transmit details of prospective employees to clients only in respect of registered vacancies or fields of potential interest.
2.2.3 Where the PEA has previously received a fee for placing a prospective employee with their current clients, PEA shall not approach the prospective employee to offer work-seeking services with a view to placing the prospective employee elsewhere, unless the current client hs been fully informed.
2.2.4 PEAs shall at all times observe the duty of confidentiality to the prospective employee while providing work-seeking services to the prospective employee.
2.2.5 PEAs shall treat information from clients with confidentiality. Disclosure of information of data identifying a client either explicitly or implicitly shall be restricted to those involved in or an integral part of the recruitment process and any agency of government that may require such information. However, this shall not be applicable in cases where the client has given express permission/instruction that their identity can be revealed to the prospective employees in the course of the employment process.
2.3 DUTIES TO PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES
2.3.1 Upon registration of a prospective employee, PEAs shall provide clear and accurate information about the services they may provide, including but not limited to clear and accurate written terms for employees, which state unequivocally the type of contract on which the employee is engaged and any services provided for which payment may be charged.
2.3.2 PEAs shall ensure that they obtain from clients all relevant information relating to the position in question, including health and safety information and they all such information is made available to the prospective employee.
2.3.3 PEAs shall pay employee promptly and in accordance with the PEAs contract with the employee. In the event of any unavoidable delay in payment, the employee should be informed immediately of the reason for the delay, steps to be taken to resolve late payment, and likely timescale for resolution of the reason for late payment.
2.3.4 PEAs shall not impose a restriction on any employee they have previously engaged from obtaining work, by withholding or refusing to provide any information reasonably requested by another employment business in respect of that employee, unless they can objectively justify their decision for refusing to give such information in any particular case.
2.3.5 Where possible, PEAs shall keep registered prospective employees informed of their progress in seeking to find work for them and of any application for work being pursed on their behalf.
2.3.6 PEAs shall ensure that deductions made from employees remuneration such as Pension contribution, PAYE tax, etc. are remitted to the appropriate body within the statutorily designated period.
RECRUITMENT FROM OUTSIDE NIGERIA
3.1 PEAs shall not engage in overseas recruitment without having secured the Licence to do so from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
3.2 PEAs recruiting prospective employees from outside Nigeria for placement within Nigeria must ensure that such prospective employees are provided with adequate documented information about the employment for which they are being considered. These shall include but not limited to notice periods, hours and location of work, the likely cost of living in the area of Nigeria in which the client is situated, the likely duration of the job in question and the state of the employment market into which they are being considered.
3.3 The relevant employment terms and conditions that shall apply between PEA and prospective employees and the client shall be explicitly stated.
3.4 In order to enable the prospective employees to make an informed decision as to whether it is in their long term interests to accept a position with a Nigeria hirer, all documented information must be provided at no cost to the prospective employees.
3.5 PEAs recruiting prospective employees from outside Nigeria shall not use overseas agents in circumstances where such agents charge overseas prospective employees for their services unless this is legal and normal custom and practice sanctioned by the government in the country of origin. PEAs shall make all reasonable efforts to ascertain whether such agents charge prospective employees for their services.
3.6 PEAs shall make conscientious effort to ascertain the immigration status of the prospective employees and advise appropriately on the steps to regularize such status if they are short of legal requirements.
RECRUITMENT TO WORK OUTSIDE NIGERIA
4.1 PEAs shall not engage in overseas recruitment without having the required bond and other legal requirements as stipulated by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity. The bong is without prejudice to the requirements of other governmental agencies responsible for curtailing human trafficking and child labour.
4.2 PEAs employing prospective employees from Nigeria for job placement overseas must ensure that such prospective employees are provided with adequate documented information about the employment for which they are being considered.
4.3 The relevant employment terms and conditions should be explicitly stated. These should include notice periods, hours and location of work, the likely cost of living in the area overseas which the client is situated, the likely duration of the job in question and the state of the employment market into which they are being considered.
4.4 In order to enable the prospective employees to make an informed decision as to whether it is in their long term interests to accept a position with a foreign client, all documented information must be provided at no cost to the prospective employees.
4.5 PEAs employing prospective employees from Nigeria to overseas clients shall not use overseas agents in circumstance where such agents will charge Nigerian prospective employees for their services.
4.6 PEAs shall make conscientious effort to assist emigrant prospective employees to update their immigration status and give appropriate advice on the steps to regularize such status if they are short of legal requirements as required overseas.
4.7 PEAs shall use only legal and safe means of transportation for sending prospective employees overseas. Such means shall not directly or indirectly cause mental, physical or emotional strain on the prospective employees.
4.8 PEAs shall endeavour to coordinate with foreign partners and Nigerian representative agencies in the country of employment to protect the legitimate rights and benefits of migrant workers.
4.9 PEAs shall exercise due diligence in assessing hazards, risks, abuse, exploitation or discrimination of all kinds in the work places to which it intends to send prospective employees. Where hazards and risk are identified, it is the obligation of PEAs to inform prospective employees of such hazards and risks.
4.10 PEAs shall not retain identity documents of prospective employees such as passport, work license, etc. and other personal belongings such as cell phones and medication with the purpose of forcing them to work for the client. At the request of prospective employees, clients may keep these documents at a secure place; however, they must immediately return these documents to employees on request at any time.
4.11 PEAs shall make conscientious efforts to expose and stop all forms of modern-day slavery, forced labour or trafficking, child labour, etc.
BREACH OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT
5.1 Breach of this code of conduct shall include all actions and inactions, expressed or implied, that are contrary to the spirit and letter of all parts of this code.
5.2 Any breach or alleged breach of the Code shall be investigated by the umbrella body of Private Employment Agencies (HuCaPAN).
5.3 If the umbrella body’s investigation into a breach of this code by a PEA reveals that a breach has occurred, the PEA in breach may be subject to a separate investigation b the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
5.4 Breach of any part of this code of conduct that is outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, such as those relating but not limited to kidnapping, forced labour, trafficking etc, after due investigation shall be forwarded to such governmental agencies responsible, for further investigation and action.
5.5 PEAs shall cooperate with the Ministry of Labour and Productivity as well as provide necessary assistance that may be required of them by the Ministry in the course of its investigation of member(s) of the association of Private Employment Agencies.
5.6 All established activities relating to child labour, forced labour or human trafficking directly or indirectly connected to any PEA shall be visited with maximum sanction, not limited to withdrawal of license. Any concealment of such acts by any PEA s shall be viewed as conspiracy and same penalty shall apply.
5.7 The principle of fair-hearing shall be a guiding principle in the investigation of all alleged breach of this code of conduct.
6.1 Alleged breach of any part of this code discovered by the umbrella Association of PEAs or reported by another PEA shall be investigated by the umbrella Association.
6.2 Such breach or breaches shall be thoroughly investigated without fear, favour or bias due to ethnicity, race or colour, through the internal machineries of the umbrella Association (s).
6.3 The alleged PEA shall be given the opportunity to defend itself against all allegations of breach of this code of conduct.
6.4 PEAs that are not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation could appeal such outcomes, stating the grounds of appeal. Such appeal(s) would be addressed by a separate body, distinct from the investigating body.
6.5 The decision or outcome of any investigation of breach of this code shall be unanimously adopted by a simple majority of members of the umbrella Association of PEAs (not executive body) so concerned before such outcome could be acted upon or such outcome sent to the Federal Ministry of labour and Productivity for further action.
6.6 In advising the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity of its investigations and outcome, the umbrella Association of PEAs shall avail the Ministry all relevant documents pertaining to the investigation, including the appeal by the alleged PEA.
6.7 Without prejudice to the sanctions that could be imposed by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, the umbrella Association of PEAs, using its internal machineries, could imposed fines or give warnings as would be agreed by its members to PEAs within its fold.
6.8 The Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity may investigate all alleged breach discovered, or reported by another PEA, giving the alleged PEA the opportunity of fair hearing.
6.9 Where a provision in this Code is less stringent than that of other Codes of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, the relevant provision of the Ministry’s Code shall apply.
6.10 The Ministry of Labour and Productivity shall exercise authority on all alleged breach investigated by it or any other body designated or appointed by it. This is without prejudice to the right of the affected PEA to seek legal redress in the law courts if it so desires.
SANCTIONS FOR BREACH OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT
7.1 All breach(es) of this code of conduct shall be thoroughly investigated before sanctions would be imposed.
7.2 Investigated breach(es) proved beyond all reasonable doubt shall attract sanctions ranging from warning, suspension of license, withdrawal of license, blacklisting or outright prosecution in a Court of Law.
7.3 All investigated breach(es) proved beyond all reasonable doubt outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity such as kidnapping, forced labour or human trafficking shall be forwarded to such governmental agencies responsible for such offenses. The sanctions relating to such offences shall apply.
7.4 Investigated PEAs are at liberty to exercise their fundamental human rights by providing defense for all or any allegation and also have the right of appeal.
Client: A person or an organization other than an employee who requires the services of an Employment Private Agency.
Force labour: shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily – (ILO Convention 29 on Forced Labour)
Migrant Worker: A person who migrates or who has migrated from one country to another with a view to being employed otherwise than on his own account and includes any person regularly admitted as a migrant worker (ILO Convention 143 on Migrant Workers)
Private Employment Agency (PEA): Any organization that is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and holds a Recruiter’s License to engage in recruitment and placement of employees (outsourcing), locally or overseas. The umbrella body of PEAs shall be known as the Human Capital Providers’ Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN)
Prospective Client: A corporate organization who seeks the services of a PEA to provide recruitment or outsourcing services for the organization within or outside Nigeria.
Recruiter’s License: A document/permit issued by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity authorizing a person or entity to operate a private employment agency.
Trafficking of persons: All acts and attempted acts involved in the recruitment, transportation within or across Nigerian borders, purchases, sales, transfer receipt or harbouring of a person involving the use of force, deception, coercion, or debt bondage for the purpose of placing or holding the person whether for or not in involuntary servitude (domestic, sexual or reproductive) in forced or bonded labour, or in slavery like condition) – Trafficking in Persons Enforcement (Prohibition) Law Enforcement & Administration Act 2003, amended 2005