On 3 September 2019, the Singapore Parliament passed a bill to amend the Work Injury Compensation Act ("WICA"). Key changes include an increase in the maximum payout and higher insurance premiums for companies with poor safety ratings. The changes are scheduled to take effect on 1 September 2020.
Work Injury Compensation Bill 2019 ("Bill")
The Bill was passed to meet the following overarching aims:
- to encourage companies to take steps to prevent injuries;
- to provide a faster claims process;
- to enhance protections for employees; and
- to provide greater certainty for employers.
Key changes made to the WICA include an increase in the compensation limits, and the expansion of compensation entitlements to workers who are not on medical leave but have been placed on light duties.
At present, medical leave wages (which are payable for the first 14 days of the employee's medical leave period) are only payable if the employee is on medical leave. Following the amendments to the WICA, medical leave wages will be payable even if the employee is placed on light duties. After the first 14 days of medical leave/light duties, the employee can still claim two-thirds of their average monthly salary up to a period of one year and up to a limit of S$45,000 (approximately US$33,000).
Increase in compensation limits
In the event of a death arising from work injuries, from 1 September 2020 the compensation limit will be raised to S$225,000 (approximately US$163,000). Currently, the maximum compensable sum for death is S$204,000 (approximately US$148,000).
From 1 September 2020 where there is permanent incapacity arising from work injuries, the employee will be compensated up to S$289,000 (approximately US$210,000). Currently, the maximum compensable sum for permanent incapacity is S$262,000 (approximately US$190,000).
Other changes include implementing faster processing of claims, as well as permitting employees to change doctors without the employer's consent. Employers will also have to report any medical leave and light duties to the Ministry of Manpower, regardless of the length of the medical leave/light duties.
These changes come following a recent increase in the number of work injury compensation claims in Singapore. Complaints have been filed against employers and doctors who collude to prevent vulnerable employees and workers from successfully filing work injury claims. It would be prudent for employers, in particular those engaged in businesses with higher risk of employee/worker injuries (such as those in the construction industry), to review the internal practices and ensure they are prepared for changes to the WICA.