Work Injury Compensation Act: Ultimate Guide

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Work Injury Compensation Act: Ultimate Guide for Singapore Business Owners

If you’re in charge of HR or you run a business, you’re likely familiar with Singapore’s Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA). This law sets out basic requirements for staff insurance, and the duty of businesses to compensate their staff for work-related injuries/illnesses. With the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are now responsible for compensating their staff for Covid-19 if they contract it at work.

This guide lays out all the frequently asked questions that employers have about WICA.

1. What is the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA)?

WICA is a statute in Singapore that specifies the duties that employers have towards employees who get injured/sick due to work-related causes. The Act was last updated recently in September 2019, where improvements were made to increase the level of protections granted to workers. These additional worker protections will increase the need for businesses to have adequate Work Injury Compensation Insurance (WICA insurance) in place.

WICA specifies:

  1. Amount of compensation that employees must be paid if they get injured/sick
  2. What circumstances are considered “work-related” injuries
  3. Penalties for employers who fail to comply with this law
  4. What types of employees must be insured with Work Injury Compensation Insurance

 

2. What is my business liable to pay under the Work Injury Compensation Act?

Under WICA laws, businesses are liable for 3 things:

  1. Medical expenses from work-related injury/sickness
  2. Lost wages from work-related injury/sickness
  3. Legal fees if your employees sue you for their work-related injury/sickness

Summary of employer’s liabilities under WICA:

Employers must pay for Maximum amount
Medical expenses from work-related injury/sickness $45,000
Lost wages due to hospitalization 60 days of wages

 

If hospitalised for >60 days, only 66% of lost wages are payable. Maximum 1 year.

Lost wages due to outpatient medical leave 14 days of wages

 

If on MC for >14 days, only 66% of lost wages are payable. Maximum 1 year.

Lump sum compensation for death Minimum: $57,000

Maximum: $170,000

Lump sum compensation for Permanent Disability (PD) Minimum: $73,000 * % of PD

Maximum: $170,000 * % of PD

 

Formula for calculating “% of PD” is laid out on MOM’s website.

 

3. Why was the Work Injury Insurance Act passed?

WICA was passed as a safeguard to ensure that businesses treat their workers fairly. As an employer, you cannot simply push your workers aside when they get injured or sick after working for you. You have a legal responsibility to adequately compensate them for any injuries or diseases they contracted while performing their job.

4. Do I need to pay for injuries/diseases suffered by employees who are overseas?

If the employee was temporarily stationed overseas for work, or travelling overseas for work, then you are liable under WICA.

If the employee was simply having a holiday (and thus non-work-related), you are not liable.

5. Are employees covered by WICA while working from home (WFH)?

Yes. Employers are liable for injuries/diseases suffered by employees while they are working from home.

However, MOM has clarified that the onus is on employees to prove that they got injured or sick while performing work-related duties.

Example: a home bakery business employs people to bake cakes from their homes. One of the home bakers suffers burns while removing a cake from the oven. This would be a clear case of work-related injury. The baker would be entitled to file a WICA claim against his/her employer.

6. Does WICA cover fights that occur at the workplace?

WICA coverage DOES apply: If an employee is attempting to defend themselves, then any injuries the employee suffers will be covered under WICA.

WICA coverage DOES NOT apply: If an employee initiates a fight, they any any injuries the employee suffers will not be covered under WICA.

7. Does WICA cover accidents that happen due to alcohol or drug misuse?

No. Any injuries caused by alcohol or drug usage are not covered.

8. Does WICA cover travelling to and from work?

Yes, but only in specific scenarios. Situations when WICA applies while travelling to and from work:

  1. Travelling to and from work in company vehicles

WICA does NOT cover travelling to and from work in your own vehicle. So, if you’re driving to work in the morning and you get into an accident, you cannot file a WICA claim. You’ll have to file a civil lawsuit against your company if you want compensation for your injuries.

9. What is the difference between filing a WICA claim and a civil lawsuit against an employer?

WICA claim Civil lawsuit
Governing body Ministry of Manpower (MOM) State Court, High Court, etc.
Lawyer required No

 

Lawyers are optional. MOM will have officers to guide you through the claims process.

Yes

 

Lawyers are required. You must pay their legal fees.

Cost Free High (5 to 6 figure sums)
Average time needed for resolution <6 months 1-3 years or more
Maximum claim amount Statutory limits laid out under WICA

 

e.g. Loss of thumb = $92,000 max. claim amount under WICA injury payout schedule

Unlimited
Ease of claiming for injury Easier

 

You don’t have to prove negligence on the part of your employer. You just have to prove you suffered the injury, and it was from a work-related cause.

Harder

 

You have to prove negligence on the part of your employer. You also have to prove you suffered the injury, and it was from a work-related cause.

Ability to claim under WICA and civil lawsuit No. You can only file either a WICA claim, or a civil lawsuit. No. You can only file either a WICA claim, or a civil lawsuit.

 

10. Is there a deadline to file a WICA claim against my employer?

One year from the date of injury. That is the maximum amount of time you have to file a WICA claim. It’s long enough to ensure adequate time for testing, doctor’s visits, etc., but not so long as to invite potential abuse of the law.

11. Are there exclusions in work injury insurance policies?

MOM has recently banned work-related exclusions from WICA insurance. Previously, insurers would often include exclusions for certain higher-risk work activities – e.g. working at tall heights, working with hot materials, etc. Employers facing such claims often did not have the financial capacity to make injury payments, since their insurance policy could not be activated. This resulted in employees having a difficult time obtaining compensation for legitimate injuries/diseases suffered.

This change in WICA legislature is a positive for employers and their staff, who can now enjoy greater protection under their WICA insurance.

12. Can I fire an injured employee to avoid paying WICA liabilities?

Employers are free to fire their employees. However, firing your employee does NOT absolve employers of WICA legal liabilities. You remain legally responsible to pay the medical expenses and lost wages owed to injured workers.

In addition, firing an injured employee may provoke them into filing an injury lawsuit against you, if they weren’t already thinking of doing so in the first place. That will add on to the costs you already have to bear under WICA. It’s therefore highly recommended for employers to resolve workplace injuries amicably, wherever possible.

13. My employees are already covered by existing insurance policies (e.g. group personal accident insurance). Do I still need to buy Work Injury Compensation Insurance?

Employers are free to combine Group Personal Accident and WICA insurance to cover all the liability that they may incur under the Work Injury Compensation Act. The point here is that businesses should have sufficient insurance coverage to meet their financial obligations if their workers get injured.

Do note that Group Personal Accident coverage limits are usually much lower than Work Injury Insurance limits. If you’re trying to get the most coverage for the least amount of money, it’s best to go with Work Injury Insurance as a baseline. If you wish to provide additional benefits, then a Group Personal Accident Insurance policy is a good way to provide employees with extra cash protection in case of any debilitating injuries.

14. How soon must an employer report a work-related accident?

Employers must report work-related accidents to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) within 10 days of a work accident occurring. This means that HR departments need to be familiar with WICA compliance, and should instruct employees to report their injuries/sickness promptly.

15. What industries need to pay especially close attention to WICA?

As long as you employ people, you need to be very familiar with WICA and your liabilities under it. However, employers in the following industries should be extra diligent about their legal duties under this Act, given that these industries are at higher risk of experiencing work-related injuries/sickness.

Industry Risk of injury/disease Explanation
Construction High risk: injury + disease Injuries from worksites, use of equipment, etc.

Covid-19 infections from/amongst construction workers.

Renovation High risk: injury + disease Injuries from worksites, use of equipment, etc.

Covid-19 infections from/amongst renovation workers.

Engineering High risk: injury Injuries from worksites, use of equipment, etc.
Manufacturing High risk: injury Injuries from worksites, use of equipment, etc.
Carpentry High risk: injury Injuries from worksites, use of equipment, etc.
Food & Beverage High risk: injury + disease Injuries from worksites, use of equipment, etc.

 

Covid-19 infections from close contact with public.

Retail High risk: disease Covid-19 infections from close contact with public.

 

16. How can I protect my business against work injury liability?

It is highly recommended that you purchase Work Injury Compensation Insurance for your company.

17. My staff got infected with Covid-19. Am I liable under the Work Injury Compensation Act?

If your staff contracted it from work-related causes, then yes you are liable.

How will the authorities determine if it was a work-related cause? MOM will activate MOH to perform contact tracing on your staff. If MOH finds that your staff had been in close contact with known Covid-19 cases, and these cases came from work-related causes (e.g. in the office, from business meetings, at worksites, or travelling to/from worksites, etc.), then that will be a work-related cause.

18. How much does Work Injury Insurance cost?

Employee Category Typical Premium Typical Coverage Amount
Office-based From $5/month, per employee $10 million annual cover, per company (market standard)
Outdoor supervisory From $10/month, per employee
Manual labour From $15/month, per employee

 

As you can tell, work injury insurance is highly affordable. Coverage amounts are also very high. Given the low cost and great coverage, Work Injury Insurance should be top of mind for HR departments to protect their staff.

19. Is there a penalty for not complying with the Work Injury Compensation Act?

Yes. Under Section 35 of the Work Injury Compensation Act, it is illegal to not purchase Work Injury Compensation Insurance when compulsory. Offenders can be jailed up to 12 months, and/or fined up to $10,000.

20. I have a project that will only last a few months. Can I buy Work Injury Insurance for 2-3 months?

No. Work Injury Insurance policies last 12 months. You cannot buy a policy for less than that period. MOM has also clarified that even if you have project-based Work Injury Insurance, you must still buy an annual Work Injury Insurance policy. In any case, work injury insurance is highly affordable, so you don’t have to worry about paying large sums of money to protect your employees.

21. Does WICA cover injuries sustained while driving?

It depends on the situation in which the driving was taking place.

If the employee was driving from home to work (or work to home), then WICA coverage does not apply. However, if the employee was driving during work hours from workplace to workplace (e.g. from the office to meet a client), then WICA coverage does apply.

22. Does WICA apply to foreigners?

Yes. WICA applies to any employee in Singapore, regardless of citizenship. The only exceptions to this rule are covered in the next point.

23. Who is not covered under WICA?
a. Self-employed persons
b. Independent contractors (i.e. freelancers)
c. Domestic helpers (i.e. maids)
d. Members of the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force, Singapore Prison Service, Central Narcotics Bureau, Singapore Civil Defence Force

If you belong to any one of the above categories, you cannot file a WICA claim for injuries/sickness.

This makes it highly advisable for businesses to purchase WICA insurance for interns as well.

24. Can I stop my employee from going for expensive treatment (e.g. private hospitals) for work-related injuries?

No. There is no limit or restriction to the type of treatment an injured employee can seek. The only condition is that the treatment has to be medically necessary, and performed by a registered medical practitioner or in a hospital licensed by MOH. Of course, the limit for medical expenses is $45,000 under WICA, so opting for pricier private hospitals may not always be feasible depending on the extensiveness of injury suffered.

25. I have foreign workers whose Work Permits have expired/been terminated. Do I have to continue looking after them?

Yes. It does not matter that their Work Permits are no longer valid. As an employer (or ex-employer, more accurately), you must provide them accommodation. You are also responsible for their general well-being. This responsibility lies with employers until the workers leave Singapore.

26. Is it necessary to buy Work Injury Insurance from a designated insurer? Can I buy from a non-designated insurer?

You may only purchase Work Injury Insurance from MOM-designated insurers. You can find this list of designated insurers here.

27. What’s the difference between WICA Insurance and Foreign Worker Medical Insurance?

Foreign Worker Medical Insurance is an additional type of insurance that’s legally compulsory for foreign workers. Regardless of their job scope, as long as you hire a foreigner, you must buy Foreign Worker Medical Insurance for your foreign employees.

Worker category Citizenship status WICA insurance compulsory? Foreign Worker Medical insurance compulsory?
Manual labour Foreign Yes

 

(Because of manual labour profession)

Yes

 

(Because of foreign citizenship)

Manual labour Local Yes

 

(Because of manual labour profession)

No

 

(Because of local citizenship)

Office-based;

Outdoor supervisory

Foreign No

 

(But highly recommended)

Yes

 

(Because of foreign citizenship)

Office-based;

Outdoor supervisory

Local No

 

(But highly recommended)

No

 

(Because of local citizenship)

 

Industries that tend to hire foreign workers, e.g. construction, renovation contractors, etc. will tend to have both WICA and Foreign Worker Medical Insurance. This is because their foreign workers are (usually) manual labourers, which must legally have WICA insurance. Being foreign, they must also have Foreign Worker Medical coverage.

28. How do employees report a work accident?

You should report all work-related accidents and illnesses to your employer.

Here are the steps to report an accident:

  1. Seek medical treatment, and tell your employer about your injury ASAP. If you delay informing your employer, they may dispute whether your injury/sickness is actually work-related.
  2. File an incident report with MOM, so that the Ministry is aware of your case and can assist you with any disputes.
  3. If you have been hospitalised for at least 24 hours or had to take more than 3 days of MC leave for a work-related injury, your employer must inform MOM.
  4. Make sure to claim your medical leave wages. Present your original Medical Certificate (MC) to your employer as proof. Make sure you keep a 2nd copy for yourself.
  5. To claim for your medical expenses, present your original medical bills to your employer. Your employer should pay the hospital or clinic directly. If you paid for your treatment first, your employer must repay you.
  6. File a report with MOM if your employer fails to pay your medical leave wages or your medical bills. You should also inform MOM if you your employer did not file a report notifying the government that you’ve suffered a workplace injury.
  7. Can my employer deduct their Work Injury insurance cost from injury compensation payouts?

No. You cannot deduct or reclaim insurance premiums costs from the compensation you pay to employees.

27. Is Work Injury Insurance compulsory for my company?

Work injury insurance is compulsory for the following types of staff you employ:

  1. Staff earning below $2,100/month. (From 1st April 2021: Staff earning below $2,600/month)
  2. Staff performing manual labour, regardless of salary

Under Section 35 of the Work Injury Compensation Act, it is illegal to not purchase work injury insurance when compulsory. Offenders can be jailed up to 12 months, and/or fined up to $10,000.

29. Should I get Work Injury Insurance if it’s not compulsory?

Yes. It covers work-related Covid-19 infections. The cost is very low, making it an attractive deal.

Here are some sample prices for Work Injury Compensation Insurance:

  1. Office-based: From $5/month, per worker
  2. Outdoor supervisory: From $10/month, per worker
  3. Manual labour: $15/month, per worker

You can save up to 25% on Work Injury Compensation Insurance here.

 

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