Filing And / Or Appealing A Work Injury Compensation Act (“WICA”) Claim
Filing a claim under the WICA, which is administered by the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”), is quicker and easier than a common law claim. Not only is the process simplified under the WICA, employees can also claim compensation on a “no-fault” basis. This means that compensation is payable to you as long as you suffered an injury arising out of and in the course of your employment, regardless of whether anyone was at fault.
Under the WICA, your employer is liable to pay compensation for personal injuries caused by an accident arising out of and in the course of your employment.
Compensation benefits claimable under the WICA include the cost of medical treatment, medical leave wages and compensation for permanent incapacity and death.
Who can claim compensation under the WICA?
The WICA is applicable to any local or foreign employee under a contract of service or apprenticeship with an employer, regardless of their salary, age or nationality.
A contract of service refers to any agreement, whether written or oral, express or implied, whereby one person agrees to employ another as an employee and that other agrees to serve his or her employer as an employee. This includes an apprenticeship contract or agreement.
The WICA is not applicable to:
- independent contractors and the self-employed;
- members of the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force, the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the Central Narcotics Bureau and the Singapore Prisons Service; and
- domestic workers (i.e. individuals employed in or in connection with the domestic services of any private premises).
What is covered under the WICA?
The WICA covers personal injuries and occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of one’s employment. This includes medical conditions such as heart attack or stroke due to work and injuries:
- due to an accident while travelling to and from one’s place of work using means of transport provided by the company (not by public transport);
- due to an accident while travelling during work for work purpose, regardless of the means of transport, where no personal detour was made;
- sustained abroad during overseas assignments where you are employed by a local employer;
- suffered by seafarers on board Singapore-registered vessels, regardless of the location of the vessel;
- sustained due to a work-related fight where you were a victim and did not participate in the fight, or were injured while exercising private defence, or instructed to break up the fight, safeguard life or property, or maintain law and order.
Some non-exhaustive examples of injuries not covered under the WICA include:
Elements of a work injury compensation claim
For the employer to be liable to pay compensation, the employee has to show that:
- he has suffered a personal injury;
- the injury has been caused by an accident; and
- the accident arose out of and in the course of his employment.
Unless there is evidence to the contrary, accidents arising in the course of an employee’s employment are deemed to have arisen out of that employment.
For an accident to have arisen “in the course of employment”, the employee need not always show that the accident occurred during working hours (including overtime) whilst actually carrying out work that he had been assigned.
Something done in the course of employment need not be actual work, but must be work or natural incidents connected with the type of work. For instance, a workman taking meals during his work hours at his place of work is an incident of his service.
Compensation benefits claimable under WICA
WICA prescribes a fixed formula to compute the amount of compensation claimable, subject to the maximum and minimum limits imposed.
Cost of medical treatment
Compensation is payable by an employer for the cost of medical treatment received by an employee in relation to the work injury within one year from the date of the accident, or up to a cap of $45,000 per accident, whichever is the lower amount. This includes but is not limited to:
- Charges for emergency medical transport to receive medical treatment;
- Fees for medical reports required for the purposes of the WICA;
- Charges for physiotherapy and occupational and speech therapy;
- Charges for case management, psychotherapy for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, functional capacity evaluation and worksite assessment to rehabilitate and enable the employee to return to work;
- Cost of medicines, artificial limbs and surgical appliances; and
- Charges and fees for medical examination and consultation related to medical treatment.
That said, charges for physiotherapy, occupational therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are only claimable if they have been prescribed and billed by a Singapore-registered doctor or dentist.
For permanent incapacity, the maximum is $289,000 but not less than $97,000 x [% loss of earning capacity] + a further 25% if the employee suffers permanent total incapacity or current total incapacity resulting from a work injury.
Note: for work accidents that occurred before 1 January 2020, for permanent incapacity, the maximum is $262,000 but not less than $88,000 x [% loss of earning capacity] + a further 25% if the employee suffers permanent total incapacity or current total incapacity resulting from a work injury.
For death, the compensation amount payable to the employee’s dependants is subject to a maximum of $225,000 but not less than $76,000.
Note: for work accidents that occurred before 1 January 2020, for death, the compensation amount payable to the employee’s dependants is subject to a maximum of $204,000 but not less than $69,000.
Medical leave wages
For medical leave wages, the employee is entitled to full pay up to 60 days hospitalisation and 14 days of outpatient medical leave and light duties.
For accidents from 1 September 2020, where the employee is on light duties due to the work injury, the employee is entitled to the shortfall between the actual wages and the average monthly earnings (“AME”).
Upon reaching this limit, for subsequent days of medical leave or light duties, the employee will be entitled to two-thirds of his salary within one year starting on the date of the accident that caused the work injury.
Notify the employer of the accident
For accidents from 1 September 2020, a claim for compensation is deemed to be made by an employee when the employer first has notice of an accident giving rise to the employee’s work injury.
As such, the employee should notify the employer of the accident as soon as possible by informing any of the following persons of the date and place of the accident and the cause of the injury:
- the employer;
- the foreman or any other person under whose supervision the employee was employed at the time of the accident; or
- any person designated for the purpose by the employer.
The employer is required to report the accident to MOM if the employee has been given any medical leave or light duties due to it.
As an additional safeguard, the employee can also make an incident report to MOM with the WSH Incident Reporting eService, which can be found at https://www.mom.gov.sg/eservices/services/wsh-incident-reporting.
To claim for the cost of medical treatment, the employee is to give the original medical bills to the employer. The employer is required to pay the hospital or clinic directly for the cost of the employee’s medical treatment. If the medical treatment has been paid by the employee or someone else on his behalf, the employer is required to reimburse the medical expenses paid.
To claim medical leave wages, the employee is to give their original Medical Certificate to the employer. However, it is advised that the employee keep a photocopy of the same for their records.
1. Submit claim processing form upon receiving it
For work accidents after 1 September 2020, the employee will receive a claim processing form and a letter from the designated insurer or MOM informing the employee that the claim is being processed.
The employee has to submit the claim processing form to the designated insurer or MOM to confirm the employee’s AME, the place of the accident and other particulars.
To calculate the AME, the tool at https://www.mom.gov.sg/workplace-safety-and-health/work-injury-compensation/resources-and-tools/wic-calculators/average-monthly-earnings#AME~ is helpful.
Note: for work accidents before 1 September 2020, the employee has to submit a claim application form from MOM within one year from the date of the accident to claim for compensation under WICA.
2. Undergo a medical assessment
After the injury stabilises, the employee has to undergo a medical assessment to determine the employee’s degree of permanent incapacity.
Notice of Computation (“NOC”)
For policies that started from 1 January 2021, the designated insurer will issue a NOC with the hospital’s medical report and objection form informing both the employee and the employer of the compensation payable.
Note: for policies that started before 1 January 2021, MOM will issue a notice of assessment (“NOA”) to inform the employee, the employer and the employer’s insurer of the compensation payable.
To object to the computation, the objection form must be submitted within 14 days from the date of service of the NOC.
If no such objection is filed by either party, the employer or the designated insurer must issue the compensation cheque within 21 days from the date of service of the NOC.
Appealing a WICA claim
To appeal to the General Division of the High Court:
- there must be a substantial question of law; and
- the order must be for refusal of compensation or for payment of compensation of $1,000 or more.
That said, the following orders cannot be appealed:
- A NOC or NOA where no notice of objection has been received within 14 days after its date of service or where all notices of objection have been withdrawn within 28 days after its date of service.
- An order to give effect to a settlement agreement that has not been set aside. The order may be set aside if the Commissioner is satisfied that there was error or fraud, other than by the applicant, and there is no pending appeal against the order.
Substantial question of law
Errors of law which may provide grounds for appeal include:
- Misinterpretation of a statute or any other legal document or a rule of common law;
- Asking oneself and answering the wrong question;
- Taking irrelevant considerations into account or failing to take relevant considerations into account when purporting to apply the law to the facts;
- Admitting inadmissible evidence or rejecting admissible and relevant evidence;
- Exercising a discretion on the basis of incorrect legal principles;
- Giving reasons which disclose faulty legal reasoning or which are inadequate to fulfil an express duty to give reasons; and
- Misdirecting oneself as to the burden of proof.
A factual finding that no person would have arrived at if they had applied the law properly amounts to a misconception or error in point of law. That said, not every manifestly wrong finding of fact would amount to an error of law.
Asking the court to assess the robustness of the inferences drawn by the Commissioner from the facts before him raises a substantial question of law. Such a complaint is essentially that the Commissioner took certain considerations into account when they were irrelevant and failed to take into account other considerations when they were relevant.
Claim under common law
An employee can seek compensation either by filing a WICA claim or filing a civil suit under common law. However, an employee cannot claim compensation under both.
Thus, if the employee has already filed a WICA claim but intends to claim under common law, the employee has to first withdraw the WICA claim.
This can be done at any time before MOM issues the NOC or NOA. Once the NOC or NOA has been issued, the claim can only be withdrawn within 14 days (if the NOC or NOA is not disputed) or 28 days (if it is disputed) from its date of service.
For employees who are deciding whether to file a claim for compensation under the WICA or under common law, you may wish to consider the following four key differences between the two avenues:
(1) Quantum of Compensation
Under the WICA, the compensation amount payable is calculated based on a formula and has prescribed maximum and minimum limits.
Under common law, the compensation amount is not limited as such. However, you have to prove damages before the court.
Under the WICA, engaging a lawyer is not necessary, thereby allowing you to save on legal fees. MOM or the designated insurer will guide you through the claim process, although such guidance is not intended as legal advice.
Under common law, you need to engage a lawyer to represent you. As such, you will incur legal fees.
Under the WICA, you need not prove that your employer or a third party was negligent or at fault. You need only prove that the injury or disease was caused by work, for instance, by obtaining a memo from your treating doctor.
Under common law, claims for personal injuries are typically made under the tort of negligence. As such, you need to prove that your employer or a third party was at fault. Otherwise, you will not be entitled to compensation and may even have to bear the other party’s legal costs.
Further, if you are found to be partially at fault for the accident, the amount of damages you are entitled to will be reduced by the extent of your contributory negligence.
To claim compensation for permanent incapacity or current incapacity under the WICA, you have to make the claim within one year from the date of the accident.
Under common law, claims for personal injuries generally can be brought within three years from the date of the accident.
 s 2(1) of the WICA 2019
 Ministry of Manpower, “Who is covered in accordance with WICA”, https://www.mom.gov.sg/workplace-safety-and-health/work-injury-compensation/who-is-covered
 s 2(1) of the Employment Act 1968
 s 3(1) of the WICA 2019, Third Schedule to WICA 2019
 ss 7(2), 8(1) and 8(2) of the WICA 2019, and Ministry of Manpower, “Eligible claims under WICA”, https://www.mom.gov.sg/workplace-safety-and-health/work-injury-compensation/eligible-claims
 NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative Ltd and another v Net of kin of Narayasamy s/o Ramansamy, deceased  4 SLR(R) 507 at 
 s 7(4) of the WICA 2019 (for accidents before 1 September 2020, see s 3(6) of the WICA (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed))
 Hauque Enamul v China Taiping Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd and another  5 SLR 485;  SGHC 118 (“Hauque Enamul”) at 
 Hauque Enamul at 
 s 5 of the First Schedule to the WICA 2019
 Ministry of Manpower, “Types of compensation under WICA”, https://www.mom.gov.sg/workplace-safety-and-health/work-injury-compensation/types-of-compensation
 ss 2 and 3 of the First Schedule to the WICA 2019
 ss 2 and 3 of the Third Schedule to the WICA (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed)
 s 1 of the First Schedule to the WICA 2019
 s 1 of the Third Schedule to the WICA (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed)
 s 4 of the First Schedule to the WICA 2019
 s 35(1) of the WICA 2019
 ss 35(2) and 35(4) of the WICA 2019
 s 16 of the WICA 2019
 Ministry of Manpower, “For employees: how to claim work injury compensation”, https://www.mom.gov.sg/workplace-safety-and-health/work-injury-compensation/employees-how-to-claim
 s 58 of the WICA 2019 (for accidents before 1 September 2020, see s 29(2A) of the WICA (Cap 354, 2009 Rev Ed)
 Great Eastern General Insurance Ltd and another v Next of Kin of Md Sharif Hossain Rana Abdul Malek  SGHC 64 at 
 Hauque Enamul at 
 Ministry of Manpower, “WICA versus common law”, https://www.mom.gov.sg/workplace-safety-and-health/work-injury-compensation/wica-versus-common-law
 s 24A(2) of the Limitation Act 1959
At Infinity Legal LLC, we help clients navigate through the variety of legal issues involving personal injury claims, including deciding whether to claim for compensation under the WICA or under common law and appealing a WICA claim to the High Court.
© Infinity Legal LLC 2022
The content of this article is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. Infinity Legal LLC does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information or materials published in this article. Copyright in this publication is owned by Infinity Legal LLC. This publication may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, in whole or in part, without prior written approval.
Infinity Legal LLC thanks and acknowledges Intern Chloe Kho for her contribution to this article.