Broader insurance coverage, higher compensation among proposed changes to work injury law

Broader insurance coverage, higher compensation among proposed changes to work injury law

Singapore construction workers
File photo of construction workers erect scaffolding in Singapore. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Having more workers covered by mandatory insurance and allowing those suffering from work injuries to receive more compensation sooner were among the proposed key changes to the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA), tabled by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Parliament on Monday (Aug 5).

These recommended amendments to the WICA, which requires employers to compensate staff for work-related injuries, are part of the MOM’s regular review to ensure that the Act “remains fair and expeditious for both employees and employers”, the ministry said in a press release.

To better protect injured workers, compulsory work injury compensation (WIC) insurance is being proposed to be extended to non-manual employees, regardless of where they work and up to a salary threshold of S$2,600.

The latter is “to align with the new salary threshold for non-workmen under Part IV of the Employment Act”, and will be carried out in stages to give businesses time to adjust, said MOM.

The scope of who gets compensation will also be broadened to include employees on light duties, while the Bill also proposes a minimum hike of 10 per cent in compensation limits.

For instance, medical expenses for an injured worker within a year from the accident date will be revised to S$45,000, up from the current S$36,000 if the proposed changes are passed.

READ: Construction safety school set up amid rise in workplace injuries

MOM also wants to ensure proper assessment of work injuries.

“To address the concern of inadequate care or overly conservative incapacity assessment by a particular assessing doctor, the commissioner may allow employees to switch the assessing doctor in certain cases,” the ministry added.

"Where there is more than one medical report assessing the extent of incapacity arising from an injury, the commissioner will determine which one is to be accepted."

Employers are also set to benefit, with the proposed changes looking to protect them against inadequate insurance coverage and fraudulent claims.

This will be done by establishing a licensing framework to designate WIC insurers to allow them to offer approved WICA-compliant and process claims arising from such policies.

And as part of this licensing framework, designated WIC insurers will be required to share policy and claims data with MOM and other designated insurers.

This will provide insurers with a complete picture of employers’ claims history and facilitate accurate premium pricing, said MOM.

The Bill also aims to shorten and simplify work injury claims processes. To expedite compensation for cases involving permanent incapacity, compensation will be allowed based on the current state of incapacity at the earliest opportunity after six months from an accident.

For cases of fatal or serious injuries, employees or their representatives will no longer need to file claim applications. The claims processing for these cases will begin once MOM or the insurer is notified.

MOM said: “Singapore aspires to provide employees with among the safest and healthiest workplaces in the world, as outlined in the Workplace Safety and Health 2028 strategy.

“The proposed changes to the Act will help to realise this vision by better protecting injured employees, and influencing employers to do more to prevent injuries from occurring."

A public consultation exercise was held in January to seek views on the proposed changes, while extensive consultations were also carried out with the tripartite partners.

“The proposals have been refined following the feedback received. In particular, the tripartite partners recognised the balance that is needed, and thus supported the proposed changes,” said MOM.

The Bill will be tabled for a second reading next month.

READ: 41 people died in 2018 after suffering injuries in the workplace: MOM

According to figures released by MOM in February, the overall number of workplace injuries increased to 12,810 cases in 2018, from 12,498 cases the year before.

Forty-one people died after getting injured in the workplace, the same report showed, with falls from height, slips, trips and falls, and vehicular-related incidents remaining the top causes of fatal injuries last year.

Construction remained the industry with the highest number of fatalities.

Source: CNA/sk(mi)

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