If you are unlucky enough to have been injured at work, or developed a condition or disease because of your employment, then understanding your rights is very important. You should ensure you know what compensation you may be entitled to. This article is designed to help you understand who is eligible for compensation under the relevant legislation, in what circumstances, and how much you may be awarded.
In Singapore, employees who get injured at work can choose between filing a civil action, or claiming compensation under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) 2019. This legislation allows employees to apply for compensation for damage to their health suffered as a result of their employment. Generally speaking, claims under the WICA are easier, faster and cheaper than civil lawsuits.
In 2020, new WICA laws came into effect and made several changes to the work injury compensation regime. They aim to give more protection to employees and more certainty to employers around compensation. Below we look at some of the relevant amendments.
Generally speaking, anyone who has a service or apprenticeship contract is covered and may claim, whether they are local or foreign.
Work injury compensation must be purchased by employers for employees who carry out:
All work injury insurance policies must be bought from approved insurers from January 2021, and must use terms and conditions set out by the Ministry of Manpower (MoM).
The following categories of worker will not be covered by WICA:
Where an employee sustains personal injury as the result of an accident arising from the course of their employment, the employer is liable for compensation, according to section 7 of the WICA.
However, it’s not always this simple. Would WICA cover you if you are in a car crash on your way to work? Would you be covered if you were injured whilst running a personal errand on your way to a work meeting? And what about injury at a client’s premises?
The Act offers some guidance on what will be classed as an accident in the course of employment, and what is not:
According to section 8, the following situations can arise out of the course of employment:
Injuries suffered during a fight at work are covered in specific circumstances:
There is another type of protection where you may claim if you suffer injuries due to your work. For example, if you get a stressful phone call about work whilst at home, and you suffer a heart attack, or you have a stroke due to ongoing work stress, then WICA allows you to claim compensation. Note that the employee must prove that the condition is related to their work.
Employees who are incapacitated, or who die from, disease they contracted during the course of their employment are covered under section 10 of WICA. Specific occupational diseases are listed in WICA’s Second Schedule:
In cases where the disease isn’t specific in the Second Schedule – but it is caused by work-related exposure to chemical or biological agents – then the employee might still be able to claim compensation.
Interestingly, during the Covid-19 pandemic, MoM has suggested that an employee who is exposed to, and contracts coronavirus during the course of their employment, may be entitled to compensation under WICA.
WICA allows claims for:
An employee on medical leave, but not in hospital, will be entitled to:
An employee who is hospitalised will be entitled to:
The recent amendments also mean that employees put on light duty because of work injuries can claim compensation, if they are earning less than their regular salary because of it.
Any treatment that compensation is claimed for must be carried out by a Singapore-registered medical professional. Examples of medical expenses are:
Provided it is carried out by a Singapore-registered doctor or dental practitioner, an employee may also make a claim for:
Medical expenses may be claimed as a lump sum. They can be covered for 1 year from the date of the accident, up to a maximum of $45,000.
Lump sum compensation for incapacity or death
A lump sum can be claimed by the family of an employee who is either permanently incapacitated or who dies due to work-related injury.
If the injury is permanent, compensation is capped at $289,000 for accidents occurring after 1 January 2020. The limit is $262,000 for accidents which happened prior to 1 January 2020. The minimum claim for accidents prior to 1 January 2020 is $88,000 and for accidents after that date the minimum is $97,000. WICA provides a formula which can calculate the exact amount.
Compensation may be claimed by the family of an employee who dies of a work-related injury. Since 1 January 2020 the maximum amount is $225,000, and the minimum is $76,000. For accidents occurring before 1 January 2020 the amount ranges from $69,000 to $204,000. Again, a formula in WICA is used to calculate the exact amount.
Temporary incapacity claims are quite straightforward. The incident should be reported to your employer. You should seek medical help and hand the medical certificate to your employer so you can claim wages for medical leave. Consider filing a report of the incident with MoM to safeguard yourself; if you need light duties or medical leave then your employer must notify MoM. Upon receiving your medical bill, your employer should pay or reimburse your medical expenses. Inform MoM if your employer does not report your injury or fails to pay.
It is usually more complicated to claim for permanent incapacity. Your employer should notify MOM or the relevant insurer, and you should then complete claims processing forms and give the required information to MoM and to the insurer. A medical assessment will be needed to determine the severity of your incapacity. Should you be assessed as permanently incapacitated, then you, your employer and their insurer will be notified of the compensation amount via a notice of assessment. Compensation should be paid within 21 days of receiving the notice of assessment, as long as there are no objections.
An employee is able to file for compensation themselves, but it is recommended that legal advice is sought where necessary.
The answer to this question depends on your situation. Consider the following factors before deciding which course of action to take:
If you need advice on whether you should make a WICA or civil claim, a personal injury lawyer can usually help. They will look at the severity of the harm you suffered, and whether negligence can be proved on the part of your employer.
A good lawyer can give valuable advice on compensation claims for most work-related injuries.