The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has reviewed the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) to provide injured employees with greater assurance of compensation, sooner after an accident.
MOM has proposed several amendments to amendments to the WICA, including expanding mandatory insurance coverage.
The key features of the proposed amendments include:
A. Broaden WICA Coverage, Increase Payout
1. The WICA requires employers to compensate their employees who suffer work injuries. Not all employees, however, are required by law to be covered under work injury compensation (WIC) insurance. WIC insurance provides greater assurance of compensation in the event employers are unable to pay. While the number of cases of non-compensation is low – only about five cases a year on average are not compensated due to lack of insurance and inability of their employers to compensate, MOM intends to broaden WICA coverage to provide greater assurance to more employees.
Expand mandatory insurance coverage
(a) To expand mandatory insurance coverage, prioritising lower-income employees most at risk of financial hardship, if their employers fail to compensate. More than 24,000 currently uninsured employees will benefit from mandatory insurance coverage by April 2021.
Expand scope of compensation
(b) Currently, only injured employees placed on medical leave are compensated. Those who are injured but have been certified by doctors to be well enough to perform light duties are not eligible for compensation at the moment. MOM intends to expand compensation to those placed on light duties as a result of work injury, such that they are no worse off than those given medical leave.
Update WICA compensation limits
(c) The maximum compensation levels under WICA will increase by at least 10% to keep pace with wage growth and increase in medical costs.
B. Speed Up Claims Processing
1. The WICA is intended to offer a lower cost and speedier resolution to WIC cases as compared to filing a suit in the courts. However, about 1,300 claims a year (or 24% of valid permanent incapacity claims) still take longer than six months to reach its conclusion. MOM intends to streamline various aspects of claims processes to speed up claims processing.
Allow compensation based on current incapacity
(a) One factor accounting for long processing times is having to wait for the final extent of injury to be determined. Nonetheless, the WIC Medical Board has advised that the vast majority of injuries do stabilise within six months after the accident. MOM proposes to compensate based on the assessment of incapacity at least six months after the date of accident. For employees with injuries that take longer to stabilise, doctors can still defer assessments to a later date.
Auto-process WICA claims
(b) MOM intends to process WICA claims by default, without requiring the employee to separately file the claim.
Allow MOM to determine basis of compensation, to resolve disputes
(c) To reduce delays from disputes over the salary used as the basis for compensation, MOM intends to allow compensation to be based on a multiple of the employee’s basic monthly salary, if itemised pay slips are not available.
MOM to accredit WIC policies
(d) WIC insurance policies that exclude coverage of risky work situations increases the risk of employees not being compensated for their work injuries. MOM will accredit WIC policies, based on a core set of standard terms and conditions, to ensure adequate WIC insurance coverage to protect both the employers and the employees.
License insurers to process WIC claims
(e) To ensure that claims are processed in a fair and timely manner, MOM will license insurers to sell and process all insured WICA claims. MOM will also be empowered to overrule the insurers’ decisions if necessary.