All employees involved in hazardous occupations know and fear that an accident in the workplace can cause permanent disability or death. Even if the disability is temporary, the earnings lost because of medical leave can be substantial. The Singapore government devised the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) to compensate workers for work related injuries and illnesses.
The WICA is an alternative to the common law procedure to seek compensation for work related injuries and illnesses. A common law court requires not also a lawyer but also the legal fees charged by the lawyer and the courts.
Additionally, the decision is taken by a judge and the employee will have to prove that illness or accident was due to the negligence of the employer. Under the WICA, the applicant does not require a lawyer or any legal fees. Instead of a judge, the final decision is taken by an Assistant Commissioner appointed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
The main two benefits of the WICA are as follows.
The person filing the complaint will only have to prove that the accident was caused either during work or as a consequence of work. There is no necessity to prove negligence on part of the employer.
Under the WICA, claims settlement is remarkably faster when compared to the common law process.
After having seen how the WICA functions, let us see the types of injuries and illnesses compensated under this act.
A single line description of the scope of WICA is as follows. WICA allows workers to seek compensation from employers for accidents and illnesses that occur not only because of work but also while working. Four types of scenarios covered by WICA are described below.
Accidents that occur because of the nature of the job performed
Many industries, like construction, oil and gas and mining involve the handling of machines where a life threatening injury can occur anytime. Similar risks are involved while working at heights. Under the provisions of the WICA, employers have to compensate the injured employee within 21 days from the date of service of the notice of assessment (NOA) issued by the MOM. The remarkably short frame of time given to the employer to pay the claim amount is critical in ensuring that critical medical treatment is available to the affected employee.
Accidents that occur when the employee is deployed on an overseas job
A unique feature of the WICA is that workers should be compensated for injuries that occur when they are on foreign assignments.
Accidents that occur during the course of completing a work assignment
Any situation where the employee is involved in an activity related to his or her employer is covered under this condition. For example, accidents that occur while travelling to and from the workplace in a company vehicle are covered under this condition. On the other hand, accidents that occur while travelling to and from the workplace in a vehicle that does not belong to the company are not covered under this condition. In a similar manner, a road accident that occurs while the employee is on a work assignment outside the workplace is covered under this condition. A road accident that occurs if the employee is doing a personal task is not covered under this condition.
Long term illnesses caused by exposure to chemicals and radiation are also covered by the WICA.
The WICA mandates that employers seek insurance cover for all manual work and for non-manual work where a person earns a monthly salary of less than $1600. Even though many employers might feel that Worker Injury Compensation Insurance is not necessary for them, it is not wise to do so. Remember that a workplace injury includes electrocution and fires that occur in the office premises. It is, therefore, necessary for all employers to take a Work Injury Compensation Insurance policy.