Low Awareness among Foreign Workers of Work Injury Claim Options

December 13, 201712:56 pm1351 views

Recent observations by advocacy group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) said that the Manpower Ministry (MOM) could help socialise and raise consciousness among migrant workers in Singapore about work injury compensation claims.

The group executive committee member Debbie Fordyce suggested that the ministry could set up a stall at carparks in Little India, which are often used for commercial stalls and service providers. In her article posted on TWC2’s website about some law firms’ practices involving injured workers, Ms Debbie said that MOM could assign a staff to stay at the stall. The personal could instruct and provide information to the foreign workers about work injury compensation claims and help with discharging their lawyers.

So far, the MOM did not comment on said TWC2’s suggestion. It said workers should consider carefully between claiming under the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica) and filing a suit under common law, given that the evidential requirements are different between the two, Today Online reports.

Regarding to this, Ms Kee Ee Wah, director of the MOM’s Work Injury Compensation Department said, “As a no-fault regime, Wica allows workers to make claims for work-related injuries without having to take legal action. A claim is admissible as long as the injury arose out of and in the course of employment. The worker need not prove fault or negligence on anyone’s part.”

Under the Wica, both local and foreign workers with injuries or occupational diseases at work or result of work, can send a claim with the MOM for medical expenses, medical leave wages, as well as compensation for permanent incapacity or death. There are limits and particular formula in calculatin the compensation. For example, claim ceiling for medical expenses is S$36,000 or one year’s medical expenses from the date of the accident.

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According to the MOM’s website, engaging a lawyer is optional in this process. Injured employees could choose to launch a civil suit, which might lead to higher compensation amounts. Those who opt for this option needs to engage a lawyer and prove that their employer was at fault. Additionally, wounded workers can only choose one to seek compensation, either Wica or common law, but not both.

Foreign workers can re-apply for a claim under the Wica, if they lose their law suits, as long as the claim is filed within a year from the accident. They also need to find legal assistance if they are seeking damages which are substantially higher than what Wica can offer.

Mr AKM Mohsin, editor-in-chief of Dibashram a drop-in centre for migrant workers, said that some Bangladeshi workers find it more convenient to call in lawyers even for Wica claims, owing mostly because they are unfamiliar with the processes, or have been repatriated and are unable to attend meetings with the MOM.

“Many law firms engage Bangladeshi guys to look out for these workers, offer to help them, and forge a sense of brotherhood. But some workers end up being exploited as a result. For instance, some lawyers persuade workers to drop their Wica claims and file a civil suit instead,” he added.

Based on MOM’s data, about 800 injured workers withdraw their Wica claims each year to pursue them in court. However, the ministry does not track the result of such court cases.

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