Suffering an employee death is one of the hardest things that an employer (to say nothing of the deceased’s family) will have to handle. If the employee passes on due to work-related causes, employers will face significant liability under Singapore law.
The 7 things businesses MUST do if faced with an employee death:
- Notify MOM
- File a Work Injury Compensation Claim (if you have Work Injury Compensation Insurance)
- Pay deceased employee’s family any salary owed
- If deceased employee is a foreigner, cancel Work Pass and repatriate body
- If death was work-related, pay mandatory compensation
- Return employee’s belongings to family
- How to protect your business against liability for work-related death
Step 1. Identify whether the employee’s death occurred due to work OR occurred at a workplace:
The responsibilities of the employer will vary depending on how OR where the employee died. Employers must act immediately to identify which the 2 scenarios below apply:
- Scenario 1: The employee’s death was not related to work OR occurred outside the workplace.
- Scenario 2: The employee’s death occurred due to work OR at the workplace
Scenario 1: Employee’s death occurred due to non-work-related causes OR outside the workplace
If an employee dies due to non-work-related causes, or dies outside the workplace, then employers don’t need to report the incident to MOM. Employers are not liable under the Work Injury Compensation Act for such deaths.
- Employee slipped and fell outside the office, after knocking off work. Employers are not liable under the Work Injury Compensation Act for injuries while travelling to and from work, from home. Since the employee death occurred outside the workplace, and was not work-related, the employer does not need to report the incident.
- Employee was killed in a road accident while on public transportation, on the way to work. Same rationale and outcome as point (1). Employer does not need to report the incident.
- Employee has been battling stomach cancer for past 6 months. The cancer was not related to work. The employee eventually succumbs to the disease while hospitalised in ICU. Employer does not need to report the death to MOM. The employee death was not related to work, and the death occurred at the hospital which is outside the workplace.
Scenario 2: The employee’s death occurred due to work OR at the workplace
Employee’s death due to work:
If an employee dies from work-related causes, employers must notify MOM of the passing immediately. Examples of work-related causes would be falls at construction sites, being electrocuted while working on wires, or getting hit by vehicles while on the way to lunch.
Employee’s death at the workplace:
If an employee dies at the workplace, employers must notify MOM immediately. Workplaces would be any area where the employee is assigned to work. It could be the company office, a third-party project site the employee needs to visit, a client’s office, etc.
If there is doubt over whether the death was related to work or happened at the workplace, then employers should err on the side of caution and report the incident to MOM ASAP.
Step 2: Notify MOM/Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health ASAP
You must notify the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health ASAP. To do this, employers can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the email to the Commissioner, employers should state the following:
- Date and time of employee’s death
- Place of death
- Name and identification number of deceased employee
- Your company name
- Name of workplace occupier. This refers to the person or organisation who controls the premises the employee works in. For instance, if the deceased employee had died while working in a retail shop, the workplace occupier could be the shop owner or landlord. If the workplace occupier is a factory that is registered with MOM, the workplace occupier is the individual whose name is on the factory’s certificate of registration.
- Description of accident that caused the death
- Name and contact details of individual who sends the email to the Commissioner
Step 3: File a Work Injury Compensation Insurance claim ASAP
For employers who have a Work Injury Compensation Insurance policy, notify your insurance broker or insurance company immediately after you notify the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health. Do not delay notifying your broker or insurer, or your claim may not be accepted.
If MOM finds that the employee’s death really was due to a work-related cause, Work Injury Compensation Insurance will cover the mandatory compensation that you’ll need to pay to the deceased’s family. This can go up to $225,000 or more – more on that later in this article.
Step 4: Submit an incident report to MOM, within 10 days of the employee’s work-related death
To file the incident report, employers may use the WSH incident reporting online tool.
Employers who fail to make the necessary reports can be jailed up to 6 months, and or fined up to $10,000.
Employers must include the following in the incident report:
- Description of accident/disease that caused employee death
- Personal details of employer
- Company details
- Employee personal details
- Details of Work Injury Compensation Insurance
Employers are required to keep all incident reports for at least 3 years, so it’s a good idea to save the report, and/or print it out and store it in a secure location.
Once employers submit the incident report, MOM will begin its investigation process.
Must employers report worker deaths while travelling?
Employee death while travelling between work and home does not need to be reported.
Employee death while travelling from work to other work sites needs to be reported.
Must employers report deaths for workers who died on their lunch breaks?
Yes. Lunch breaks are counted as part of work and such deaths must be reported.
Travelling to and from lunch breaks is counted as part of work, and such deaths must also be reported.
Example: Tim is an employee of Company ABC (names fictitious). Tim was driving from his company’s office to a client’s office when he got into a road accident. Tim passed away. This was a work-related incident, so Company ABC must report the death to MOM.
Step 5: Pay any outstanding salary owed to deceased employee
A deceased employee may have salary, bonuses, overtime payment, and other sums that were owed to them before they passed on. These accrued sums belong to the employee’s personal representative, which is the person the employee legally nominated to manage their affairs upon death. Most often, the personal representative will be a member of the employee’s family, such as their spouse.
Before making any payments to the employee, it’s best to contact the employee’s next-of-kin, to determine who is managing the deceased’s affairs. Most employers will collect an “emergency contact” from their employees – this will work also. Employers should contact the employee’s emergency contact first, because the deceased employee’s bank account will usually be frozen when the bank is informed of their death. Contacting the next-of-kin first allows employers to arrange the logistics of which bank account to pay the sums owed.
The amount that employers must release to deceased employees will depend on how salary is calculated in the worker’s employment contract. For instance, employees who receive monthly payments should have their salary pro-rated to reflect the number of days worked before they passed away. For daily-wage workers, the daily wage should be pro-rated to reflect the number of hours worked before the worker passed away.
Payment of maternity leave pay, if employee dies while on maternity leave, before childbirth
Some key facts to note about paying maternity leave benefits for expecting employees who pass on:
- Maternity leave pay is the employee’s gross pay. (Gross pay = basic pay + allowances + overtime/bonuses/commissions/etc. Exclude CPF).
- Paid maternity leave varies from 12 to 16 weeks.
Employers must pay the remaining maternity leave pay to the person nominated by the worker to receive such payments. Often, it will be the deceased employee’s spouse. If no one has been nominated, the employer should pay the employee’s personal representative.
Step 6: Pay mandatory compensation for work-related deaths
By law, employers must pay compensation to the family of employees who die from work-related causes. This is mandated under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA).
Minimum amount employer must pay, for each work-related death: $76,000
Maximum amount employer must pay, for each work-related death: $225,000
The above amounts can be adjusted higher depending on the age of the employee. The families of younger employees will have to be paid more compensation for work-related deaths. The amount will be determined by MOM after they have conducted their investigation into the employee’s demise. MOM will issue employers a Notice of Assessment (NOA), which will inform employers of how much compensation they must pay.
Not paying required compensation under the Work Injury Compensation Act is punishable by jail and/or fine.
WICA covers all employees in Singapore, regardless of nationality. This means even if the worker is a foreigner worker, employers must pay the foreign worker’s family in their home country. Also, WICA operates on a no-fault basis. This means that even if the worker who died at (or from) work due to their own carelessness, the employer must compensate the worker’s family. Even if the employer had no responsibility for the employee’s death, it is irrelevant.
Death compensation is a lump sum compensation. Given the size of the required compensation, companies that don’t have WICA Insurance may go bankrupt.
Exceptions for WICA compensation:
Employers are not liable to pay compensation under WICA if:
- Employee commits suicide or deliberately injure themselves
- Employee dies or gets injured while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Employee’s death was not work-related
Step 7: Returning belongings
Employers should arrange for the employee’s personal belongings at the workplace to be packed and delivered to the family, depending on how the family wishes for their loved one’s belongings to be handled.
Protect your business from liability from employee deaths:
As established earlier, businesses in Singapore are liable for $76,000 to $225,000 (or more) for an employee passing away due to work-related causes. This is a massive amount of money, and could easily send most SMEs into serious financial trouble, or even bankruptcy. Work Injury Compensation Insurance will pay this amount for you. It also covers medical expenses for work-related injuries/sickness, including Covid-19 (up to $45,000), and also covers compensation for temporary/permanent disability.