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Changes proposed to Singapore’s Work Injury Compensation Act in first reading

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With Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) amending the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA), the first reading of the Work Injury Compensation (WIC) Bill was yesterday (5 August 2019).

As part of the proposed changes, employers are expected to benefit from greater assurance of buying policies that meet WICA requirements, enhanced recourse to fraudulent claims, and faster and simpler work injury claims processes. Meanwhile, for employees this implies expansion of WICA coverage.

The key features of the WIC Bill 2019 and the proposed amendments to its subsidiary legislation are listed below.

Enhanced protection of injured employees

  1. Expanding compulsory WIC insurance coverage
    • Inclusion of non-manual employees (NMEs), regardless of where they work.
    • Update the NME salary threshold to S$2,600, to align with new threshold for non-workmen.
    • Businesses will be allowed time to adjust by raising the salary threshold in stages.
  2. Expanding scope of compensation
    • Compensate employees on light duties due to work injury for his lost earnings.
    • Employers only need to compensate employees up to their average monthly earnings (AME) if the salary during periods of light duties is lower.
  3. Ensuring proper assessment of work injuries
    • To address the concern of inadequate care or overly conservative incapacity assessment, the Commissioner may allow employees to switch the assessing doctor in certain cases.
    • 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.
  4. Updating the WICA compensation limits, as below:

Enhanced protection of employer’s interest

  1. Designating WIC insurers to sell WICA-compliant policies and process claims
    • Establish a licensing framework to designate WIC insurers to allow them to offer approved WICA-compliant and process claims arising from such policies.
    • Designated insurers who fail to process claims in a fair and timely manner may face penalties of up to $30,000 for each such failure, and licence suspension or cancellation.
    • Commissioner allowed to prescribe a core set of policy terms and conditions in WICA-compliant policies that employers must purchase to fulfil their compulsory obligations.
    • Maximum fine of S$80,000 to any unauthorised person who offers WICA-compliant policies.
    • Maximum fine of $80,000 to any person who offers policies purporting to be WICA-compliant. Such person will have to pay compensation as though the policies offered were WICA-compliant policies, ensuring that employers are not disadvantaged.
  2. Facilitating accurate premium pricing: Designated WIC insurers will be:
    • Required to share policy and claims data with MOM and other designated insurers, thus showing a complete picture of employers’ claims history.
    • Allowed to validate the aggregated workforce and payroll data as declared by the companies with MOM.
  3. Safeguarding against fraud or error
    • Any person who provides false or misleading information to obtain or avoid compensation or causes another person to do so will be liable for a fine of $15,0000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.
    • The Commissioner can order claimants who have received compensation on the basis of any error or false or misleading to pay restitution to the person who paid compensation.

Faster and simpler claims processes

  1. Improving claims processing
    • To expedite compensation for permanent incapacity (PI), and allow compensation based on current incapacity at the earliest opportunity after six months from the date of accident.
    • For cases of fatal or serious injuries, employees or their representatives will no longer need to file claim applications. Claim processing will commence once MOM or the insurer is notified.
    • In cases where there is no readily available and reliable evidence to compute the employee’s AME, the Commissioner can order compensation to be computed based on a multiple of the employee’s basic monthly salary.

Enhance deterrence against WICA contraventions

  1. Increasing penalties of WICA offences
    • Raise the maximum fine for failure to pay compensation from $10,000 to $15,000.
    • Double the maximum fines for a second or subsequent conviction for WICA offences.
  2. Introducing new penalties
    • Any person withholding necessary information or documents for claims processing will be liable for a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or 6 months’ imprisonment.
    • Failure to pay deposit compensation ordered will result in a maximum fine of $15,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.

The second reading of the WIC Bill 2019 will be tabled at the next Parliament sitting in September 2019.

Photo / 123RF

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