26 February 2019
On 31 January 2019, the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) released a public consultation paper on proposed amendments to the Work Injury Compensation Act (“WICA”), which provides injured employees with a lower-cost and speedier way to claim work injury compensation (“WIC”). Under the WICA, an employer is liable to pay WIC to all their employees, as long as their injury is from an accident arising out of and in the course of employment, regardless of whether the employee is at fault.
The consultation paper includes proposals to broaden coverage under the WICA and to introduce measures to speed up claims processing. The consultation closed on 25 February 2019.
Broadening WICA coverage
Expanding mandatory insurance coverage
WIC insurance provides greater assurance of compensation to injured employees when the employer is unable to pay. Employers are currently required under the WICA to purchase WIC insurance for (a) all employees performing manual work and (b) non-manual employees (“NMEs”) in factories earning up to S$1,600 a month.
To provide greater assurance of WIC compensation to more employees, MOM proposes to:
- extend mandatory insurance to NMEs working in non-factories; and
- update the NME salary threshold for WIC insurance requirements to S$2,600, in alignment with the new salary threshold for non-workmen under Part IV of the Employment Act. To allow businesses time to adjust, the NME threshold will be raised to S$2,100 in April 2020 and to S$2,600 in April 2021.
Expanding scope of compensation
Currently, only injured employees placed on medical leave are compensated. MOM intends to extend WIC compensation to those placed on light duties as a result of work injury, such that they are no worse off than those given medical leave.
Updating WICA compensation limits
MOM proposes to raise the maximum compensation levels under WICA to the following levels:
- Death: S$225,000 (from S$204,000 currently)
- Total permanent incapacity: S$289,000 (from S$262,000 currently)
- Medical expenses: S$45,000 or the cost of medical treatment received by the employee within one year from the date of accident, whichever is reached first (currently S$36,000 or the cost of medical treatment received by the employee within one year from the date of accident, whichever is reached first).
Speeding up claims processing
To speed up claims processing, MOM intends to streamline various aspects of claims processes. These include the following:
- Auto-processing WICA claims: MOM intends to process WICA claims by default, without requiring the employee to separately file the claim.
- Allowing compensation based on current incapacity: MOM proposes to compensate employees based on the prevailing state of incapacity (termed a “current incapacity” assessment) at the medical assessment occurring at least six months after the date of accident. According to the WIC Medical Board, the extent of incapacity by then would be a close approximation of the steady-state permanent incapacity for most cases. However, for employees with injuries that take longer to stabilise, doctors can defer assessments to a later date.
- Allowing MOM to determine basis of compensation: To reduce delays from disputes over the salary used as the basis for compensation, MOM intends to allow compensation to be based on a multiple of the employee’s basic monthly salary, if itemised pay slips are not available.
Licensing of WIC insurers to process all insured WICA claims
To speed up the claims process and allow employees to receive their compensation more quickly, MOM proposes for insurers to be licensed to sell standardised WIC policies and to process all claims arising from such policies.
To provide assurance that the claims process is fair and expedient, MOM proposes the following safeguards:
- Imposing licensing conditions: The Commissioner for Labour (“Commissioner”) will be allowed to impose licensing conditions on insurers to ensure that claims are processed in a fair and timely manner. The Commissioner will also be empowered to overrule the insurers’ decisions.
- Accrediting WIC policies: The Commissioner will be allowed to accredit WIC policies based on a core set of standard terms and conditions. In particular, approved WIC policies will only be permitted to have a standard list of allowed exclusions.
Other proposed amendments include:
- Increasing the maximum fines for WICA offences;
- Allowing the Commissioner to assess the validity of late objections and to allow them if reasonable; and
- Clarifying certain legal ambiguities and streamlining the claims process.
The following materials are available on the MOM website www.mom.gov.sg: