Key changes to the work injury compensation act (WICA)

[Source: Ministry of Manpower, https://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2019/0803-new-work-injury-compensation-act-2019 ]

New Work Injury Compensation Act 2019 for Faster Claims, Fairer Compensation and Fewer Injuries

The Work Injury Compensation Bill 2019 was passed in Parliament today. It will offer the following benefits for both employees and employers:

  • Influence companies to prevent injuries from happening in the first place
  • Faster and simpler claims processes for everyone
  • Enhanced protection for employees
  • More certainty for employers

The new Act will take effect on 1 September 2020 to allow employers and insurers time to adjust. Related subsidiary legislation amendments are slated to take effect starting from January 2020.

Commenting on the changes, Minister of State for Manpower, Mr Zaqy Mohamad said, “After consulting unions, employers, insurers, NGOs and the general public, the new WICA 2019 offers a balanced set of changes that will benefit both workers and employers. WICA 2019 is important not only because it will provide faster and fairer compensation for work injuries, but because it should result in fewer injuries occurring in the first place. Strategically, it supports our vision to position Singapore among the world’s best for workplace safety and health.”

Preventing Injuries

Currently there is no information sharing between insurers of their clients’ past claims record. This has resulted in safer companies subsidising the less safe companies as there is little premium differentiation between these companies.

With the change, all employers’ past claims data will be made available to all designated WIC insurers. With greater information transparency, employers with good safety records would be able to enjoy lower premiums, while those with poor safety records would face significantly higher premiums. This will provide a stronger commercial incentive for employers to prevent their employees from getting injured in the first place.

Faster and simpler claims processes

Some 20% of permanent incapacity claims take longer than six months to resolve, due to the time taken for a permanent incapacity assessment to be made. Given the WIC Medical Board’s advice that the vast majority of injuries would have stabilised six months from accident, the new WICA will allow for compensation to be made at the first opportunity six months from the date of accident. This will allow more injured employees to receive their compensation sooner.

Today, WIC insurers process all temporary incapacity claims while MOM processes death and permanent incapacity claims. This arrangement leads to duplicative work and processing delays as insurers have to verify the documents and case evidence submitted to MOM. The new WICA requires insurers to process all insured claims to streamline processing for all parties.

Enhancing protection for injured employees

Around 300,000 more employees will be covered under mandatory work injury compensation insurance from their employers. This provides greater assurance of compensation when employers are unable to afford the compensation. Compensation limits will also be updated based on trends in wage growth and medical expenses.

Employees who are prescribed light duties due to work injuries will receive higher compensation for lost wages, at the same level as what he or she would have received if they were on medical leave. Employers will also have to report any instance of light duty or medical leave. This is to address the concern that some irresponsible employers may attempt to influence doctors to under-prescribe medical leave or light duties.

Mr Melvin Yong, Assistant Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress said, “The amendments to the Work Injury Compensation Act will undoubtedly enhance the protection of employees in the area of Workplace Safety. However, this is only the first half of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) equation. WSH needs to be tackled holistically, and the Labour Movement stands ready to partner with companies to promote both Workplace Safety and Workplace Health. Together, we can achieve Total WSH for the benefit of all workers.”

Safeguarding interest of employers

Said Mr Douglas Foo, Vice President, Singapore National Employers Federation, “Today, employers may inadvertently buy WIC insurance policies that exclude coverage for some risky work scenarios. It would be too late when these employers realise that they had to bear the cost of compensation even though they bought insurance. With a prescribed core set of standard terms for WICA-compliant policies, employers will be assured of complete coverage for their WICA liabilities. This safeguards employers’ interest and we welcome this change.”

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