Work injury compensation in Singapore: A guide

Can remote workers make claims here? Ashurst offers a crash course on an employer’s legal duty of care

Work injury compensation in Singapore: A guide

What you need to know

  • The compensation payable under the Work Injury Compensation Act 2019 (WICA) for death or total permanent incapacity caused by work injuries has been increased. The maximum limit for medical expenses has also been increased.
  • Employees who have been placed on light duties due to work injuries are now entitled to compensation for their lost earnings. Employers must now also report all cases where an employee has been placed on light duties or medical leave due to work injuries.
  • Work injury compensation insurance is no longer mandatory for employees engaged in non-manual work and who earn more than $2,100 per month. The salary threshold for employees engaged in non-manual work requiring work injury compensation insurance will be increased to $2,600 per month from April 1, 2021.

What you need to do

  • Review your relevant employment policies to ensure that you minimise the risk of claims and are able to comply with the mandatory reporting obligations regarding work-related injuries. If appropriate, consider implementing a remote working policy.
  • Review your work injury compensation insurance policy to ensure that it complies with the relevant requirements of the WICA.

Numerous changes to the WICA have taken effect throughout the course of this year. Given the broad application of the WICA, employers are likely to be affected by these changes even while many of their employees continue to work from home.

In this alert, we consider these changes and take the opportunity to provide a refresher on the main features of Singapore's work injury compensation regime.

Read more: Can remote workers claim compensation for injuries?

Overview and coverage of the WICA

The WICA establishes a streamlined and simplified regime for employees to claim compensation for work-related injuries or diseases without having to commence formal civil proceedings. All local and foreign employees, regardless of their salary, age or role, are covered by the WICA.

Generally, an employee who suffers any injury from an accident arising out of and in the course of employment is eligible for compensation under the WICA regime. Employees who suffer from certain specified occupational diseases and diseases which are directly attributable to exposure to a chemical or biological agent arising out of and in the course of employment are likewise eligible for compensation.

The WICA does not restrict compensation for injury only to those which result from an accident which occurs in the employer’s designated workplace (i.e. the office). In that regard, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has confirmed that an employee will be able to claim compensation in respect of an accident which has occurred outside the workplace, so long as it arises out of and in the course of the employment (such as when an employee is working from home, or at a client site).

An employee’s eligibility to claim under WICA extends to accidents which occur outside of Singapore. Such wide applicability is significant given the current prevalence of work from home and other remote working arrangements, all of which are likely to continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic. It demonstrates that an employer’s obligation to provide a safe working environment does not begin and end with the employer’s office.

In the current context, the MOM has also confirmed that an employee who contracts COVID-19 as a result of exposure to the disease arising out of and in the course of employment will be able to claim compensation under the WICA regime.

Read more: Can HR order employees back to the office?

Compensation

The amount of compensation to which an employee is entitled under WICA depends on whether the employee suffers incapacity (permanent, current, or temporary) or dies as a result of the accident.

Lump sum compensation will be paid to employees who suffer permanent or current incapacity, or where death is a result. The amount of compensation is calculated based on the date of the accident and various formulae provided for by the WICA, and minimum and maximum amounts of compensation apply.

From 1 January 2020, these minimum and maximum amounts have been increased in respect of compensation for death and total permanent incapacity (including current incapacity), as follows:

         

BEFORE 1 JANUARY 2020

AFTER 1 JANUARY 2020

Compensation for death

Minimum

$69,000

$76,000

Maximum

$204,000

$225,000

Compensation for total permanent incapacity

Minimum

$88,000

$97,000

Maximum

$262,000

$289,000

Employees who suffer temporary incapacity are compensated based on their average monthly salary during the period of outpatient sick leave or hospitalisation leave. From September 1, 2020, this compensation has been extended to include the period where an employee has been certified to be fit only for light duties.

Employees can also receive compensation for medical expenses incurred in relation to the work injury for a period of one year from the date of the relevant accident. The maximum limit of such compensation has been increased from $36,000 to $45,000 as of January 1, 2020.

Read more: Are doctor's notes enough to render employees 'fit to work'?

Work injury compensation insurance

The WICA requires employers to procure and maintain work injury compensation insurance to meet any liabilities for compensation which may arise under the legislation. Insurers must be approved by the Commissioner of Labour before they can offer WICA-compliant policies.

All employees engaged in manual work must be covered by this insurance. Employees who are engaged in non-manual work must also be covered by work injury compensation insurance if their monthly salary is below a certain threshold.

From April 1, 2020, this threshold has been increased from $1,600 per month to $2,100 per month. It will be further increased to $2,600 per month from April 1, 2021.

While it is not mandatory for employers to procure insurance that covers other employees, the procurement of such insurance would be prudent.

Mandatory incident reporting

The Workplace Safety and Health (Incident Reporting) Regulations require employers to report work-related accidents, workplace accidents, occupational diseases or dangerous occurrences at the workplace.

Previously, the obligation to report accidents only applied where the accident resulted in the death of an employee. From September 1, 2020, this obligation has been extended to apply to all accidents which have resulted in an employee being certified for outpatient sick leave, hospitalisation leave or light duties.

Failure to comply with the reporting obligation is an offence, punishable on the first occasion by a fine not exceeding $5,000 and on the second and subsequent occasions by a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment not exceeding six months (or both).

Conclusion

These changes represent a further expansion of the WICA regime and employers should be aware of the implications the changes may have on their business and operations. Importantly, organisations should have a clear mechanism for the internal reporting of work-related injuries, to ensure that mandatory reporting obligations can be met.

Dawn Tan is the founding director at ADTLaw. Karen Mitra is a senior associate at Ashurst.

© Ashurst 2020. Reproduced with permission. This article was first published in Ashurst ADTLaw Update dated 2 December 2020.

This publication is co-written by ADTLaw LLC and Ashurst LLP who together form Ashurst ADTLaw in Singapore. Ashurst LLP is licensed to operate as a foreign law practice in Singapore. Where advice on Singapore law is required, we will refer the matter to and work with licensed Singapore law practices where necessary. The information provided is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all developments in the law and practice, or to cover all aspects of those referred to. Readers should take legal advice before applying it to specific issues or transactions.

Recent articles & video

AIA Malaysia seals deal for 'end-to-end' mental health support

This new online platform connects employers to people with disabilities

'Quiet quitting': The toxic employee trend that's worrying HR

Employees forced back to the office twice as likely to quit than those with choice says new survey

Most Read Articles

How to manage an employee who is not performing

Bill calls for retirement age to be scrapped in the Philippines

Proofpoint names new VP for Southeast Asia and Korea