By Remi Adegboyega
One of the foremost American Management Consultant and Author – Peter F. Drucker had identified the key role that Private Employment Agencies (PEA) play in the management of business when he said, “Do what you do best and outsource the rest”. The essence of this principle is to allow business owners focus on important and commercial side of the business while they leave the ancillary issues of logistics, manpower/labour recruitment, replacement and supervision to third parties.
Private employment agencies play significant roles in the labour market. They are like a buffer zone in the global labour market a-washed with labour mostly not readily fit for the needs of the employers. Starting work in private employment agencies provide them with the starting opportunity, skills and competencies to add value to businesses.
While employing them in most cases as freshmen, PEAs provide fair and equitable conditions of service which include: Fair pay for work, Group Life Insurance, Healthcare Insurance, Pension, Employee Compensation for injuries and others such that they can favourably compare with other employees around the globe. The environment of work with PEAs inculcates the performance culture, team spirit and business culture.
Private Employment Agencies (PEAs) are companies that are involved directly or indirectly with recruitment, selection, placement (and in some cases, the management) of employees, whether skilled or unskilled, for themselves and other companies. They are involved in the process of matching the employees to the employer’s requirements and vice versa. It is a fast developing sector in the labour industry not just in Nigeria but globally. It is a new and growing universal business model.
Private employment agencies 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. Services provided by PEAs represent a modern answer to reconcile the requirement of labour flexibility for user companies and the need of work security for employees. The flexibility of agency work has endeared many young workers to it. Agency workers are also important in meeting the seasonal needs of some employers. For some workers, agencies act as a gateway to securing more profitable jobs. On the other hand, some workers choose temporary work because it allows them to combine their work with other commitments; like their entrepreneurial interests, developmental plans or to increase their income by being able to work for more than one employer.
Private employment agencies provide avenue for job-starters and first-time entrants to the labour market to gain experience through their assignments and can therefore demonstrate their skills to prospective employers. In all these, it is clear that agency work is indispensable in the 21st century economy.
Private employment agencies help to increase work mobility while protecting working conditions of workers. This includes mobility from unemployment to employment and mobility from one job to another; by providing training to workers and giving them new skills for an assignment and therefore enhance their employability.
Private employment agencies also provide an efficient external solution for companies to manage their need of workforce flexibility. Companies need increased flexibility to maintain their competitiveness in an economy that is becoming more global, constantly changing and unpredictable. Private employment agencies help companies cope with seasonal production fluctuations and provide them with specialised skills that they do not have in-house.
The private employment agencies in Nigeria contribute significantly to both the labour and government. They employs over Three Million (3,000,000) Nigerians of management and non-management cadre both in Nigeria and abroad with the volume of fund in the industry rising over the years to an estimate of One Trillion and Four Hundred Billion Naira (1,400,000,000,000). The private employment agencies pay various forms of taxes to the government at all levels like Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Company Income Tax, Withholding Tax etc.
Given the new developments in the labour market and the indispensable contributions of the private employment agencies to the economy, it is inconceivable that the National Assembly (Senate/House of Representatives) is considering legislating, through a reportedly current Bill in the Senate titled “A Bill for an Act to provide for the Prohibition of Casualisation in all forms of employment in the private and public sectors in Nigeria and for related matters” to outlaw outsourcing in Nigeria. The umbrella body of licensed private employment agencies in Nigeria, the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) has equally been advocating for prohibition of casualization in Nigeria while promoting outsourcing – a new form of work around the globe.
The Current labour laws in Nigeria – the Labour Act, Factory Act/Ordinances, Pensions Act, Trade Union Act, Employee Compensation Act, and Minimum Wage Act among others are more than sufficient to guarantee the right of people at work, although, some of them require review and updating. Yet, they are sufficient to safeguard our citizens from being exploited or “casualized” by any employer. Despite the existence of these laws, however, there is a huge gap in the regulatory environment; labour supervision has become very weak in the face of poor allocation of resources to the Ministry. There are only a few labour inspectors (whose skills and competencies need serious updating) and ability to visit employers throughout the country to ensure that citizens are not exploited is weak.
The Labour Act states that as an employer, one cannot employ a person without formal employment for more than 90 days. After 90 days, one must give such worker a letter (job contract) stating his/her conditions of service. If the provision is adhered to, Nigerians wouldn’t be exposed to exploitations by unfair employers. Outsourcing employment does not translate to casualization in anyway if it is practiced in accordance with the standards of Private Employment Agencies and laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Most of the PEAs employees have gone on to improve their competencies to become highly skilled, migrant workers and fantastic entrepreneurs. Such is the kind of services being provided by PEAs worldwide.
The global growth of PEA services has led to the development of Private Employment Agencies Convention 181 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which creates standards under which PEAs must operate. The National Assembly should rather incorporate this Convention into the Nigerian labour laws and make laws that will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible for illegal recruitment in the country.
Licensed employment agencies in Nigeria are guided by their Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct was developed jointly by the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the umbrella body of the private employment agencies in Nigeria, the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN).
The Code of Conduct for private employment agencies in Nigeria aimed at regulating and setting standards for the operations of Private Employment Agencies and to also nip in the bud, the ever alarming global threat of unwholesome labour practices and human trafficking.
By the provisions of the Code, Private Employment Agencies expect high standards of ethical behaviour from its members. It outlined the professional conduct and behavior required of registered and approved employment agencies in Nigeria. It stipulated the expected behaviour and conduct using six values, which underpin the profession: integrity, dignity, responsibility, respect, justice, and care. It fostered corporate ethics and best practices. It provided a principle-based approach that acknowledges the peculiarities of our environment and dynamics of the private recruitment industry.
Private employment agencies in Nigeria have since inception refused to compromise on the right of workers to associate and working conditions. They have a body, the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) jointly established by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for the purpose of promoting decent jobs in the country. The National Assembly can promote workers right by legislating that Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) becomes the body that appropriately caters for the interest of the outsourced personnel; as such, all recruiting agencies should rally under HuCaPAN so that they can be adequately monitored to ensure that Nigerian workers are not shortchanged.
The National Assembly can equally help to ensure the ratification and domestication of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention C181 – Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181) and include it in the proposed Labour Act (Amendment) 2019. Nigeria should not be moving against positive global economic trend. The lawmakers can also alleviate the sufferings of Nigerian workers by ensuring that legislative frameworks are put in place to make the industry extremely difficult and unattractive for illegal recruiters while stiffer punishment is meted out to any proven unlicensed, illegal recruiter.
The industry should not be discriminated against compared to other forms of flexible labour. The International Labour Organization (ILO), Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and the Federal Ministry of Employment (FMLE) are continually meeting at tripartite level to improve the labour law standards to check any perceived anomaly in terms of tendencies of any organizations to abridge rights of Nigerian employees.
The Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria can be consulted to provide support on how to protect Nigerians from the evil of casualisation or exploitation of Nigerian workers.
Remi Adegboyega is the President of the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN).