Work Injury Compensation

  • Personal Injury
Work Injury Compensation

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.

Who is protected by WICA?

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:

  • Manual work, whatever their salary level; and
  • Non-manual work for a monthly salary of less than $2,100. This amount will rise on April 1st, 2021 to $2,600 per month. (It is no longer mandatory to have insurance for non-manual workers who earn more than the monthly threshold).

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).

Who is not protected?

The following categories of worker will not be covered by WICA:

  • Domestic workers,
  • Uniformed personnel working for the Government – such as members of the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Armed Forces, the Prison Service or Central Narcotics Bureau,
  • Independent contractors – these workers will not have a contract of employment. However, the line between independent contractors and employees can be blurred. For instance, WICA will not cover a freelancer who regularly works for the same employer.

What are you covered for?

Work-related injuries

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:

Specific Inclusions:

According to section 8, the following situations can arise out of the course of employment:

  • Injuries suffered during travel to work during work hours, whatever the mode of transport was.
  • Injuries suffered whilst travelling during work hours for the purpose of employment, regardless of the mode of transport;
  • Injuries suffered in an accident between the worker’s home and place of employment, travelling in company transport. Company transport means public transport is excluded; it means transport operated by the employer, or by someone who operates the transport by arrangement with the employer.
  • Injuries suffered by seafarers aboard a vessel registered in Singapore, regardless of where the accident happened.

Injuries suffered during a fight at work are covered in specific circumstances:

  • The employee was the victim;
  • The employee was told to break up a fight, protect someone’s property or life, or keep law and order;
  • The employee didn’t take part in the fight, or they acted only in self-defence;

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.

What are you not covered for?

  • Intentionally aggravating a work-related injury or injuring yourself on purpose,
  • Injuring yourself during your employment when you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs not prescribed by a doctor,
  • Getting injured in an accident while you were making a personal detour on a work-related journey, during work hours, regardless of the mode of transport,
  • If an employee is in their own vehicle, or on public transport when they have an accident on their way to work, then they are not covered by WICA.

Occupational disease

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:

  • Occupational asthma,
  • Muscle or bone disorders arising from repetitive strain injuries, forceful exertion or harmful working positions or vibrations,
  • Radiation-related diseases,
  • Asbestosis caused by exposure to harmful asbestos fibres.

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.

What can be claimed?

WICA allows claims for:

  • Loss of earnings due to missing working days, known as medical leave, which is authorised by a doctor, or hospitalisation leave.

An employee on medical leave, but not in hospital, will be entitled to:

  • Their total average monthly wage for the first 14 days,
  • 2/3 of their average monthly wage, from day 15 onwards, for a period of up to 1 year.

An employee who is hospitalised will be entitled to:

  • Their total average monthly wage for days 1 – 60
  • 2/3 of their average monthly wage from day 61 onwards, up to the end of the first year.

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.

  • They may claim their actual wage shortfall compared to their total average monthly salary for the first 14 days of light duty,
  • They may then claim the difference between the light-duty wage and 2/3 of their average monthly wage from day 15 onwards, for up to 1 year.

Medical expenses

Any treatment that compensation is claimed for must be carried out by a Singapore-registered medical professional. Examples of medical expenses are:

  • Consultation costs
  • Cost of treatment itself
  • Emergency transport
  • Surgical appliances
  • Artificial limbs
  • Cost of medicine

Provided it is carried out by a Singapore-registered doctor or dental practitioner, an employee may also make a claim for:

  • Treatment from a chiropractor
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Traditional Chinese medicine

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.

How you can claim

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.

Should you file a civil claim instead?

The answer to this question depends on your situation. Consider the following factors before deciding which course of action to take:

  • You cannot make a WICA claim and file a civil claim; you must choose one or the other.
  • In a civil claim, you’ll need representation by a lawyer, which can mean high fees. Under WICA, you can claim without needing a lawyer, or with only minimal assistance.
  • A WICA claim is a no-fault compensation scheme. In order to claim, you don’t need to prove your employer’s liability. In contrast, for a civil claim you will have to prove that your employer was at fault – if you cannot, you will not receive compensation.

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.