The Difference Between WICA Claim and Common Law Compensation

When workers in Singapore suffer injuries when performing their duties at work, they either seek compensation under common law or the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA). When employers invest in work injury compensation insurance, they do so to ensure their workers are protected should an accident occur at work.

The worker’s approach, whether it is WICA or filing a suit under common law, depends on several things.

Is the employee eligible for compensation under WICA?

WICA is specific on the type of employees eligible for work injury compensation. This Act protects local and foreign employees. In 2019, the Act was amended to include non-manual workers who are injured at work.

It also raised the salary threshold for non-manual workers. This was done in two phases. The first phase was implemented in April 2020, where the threshold was raised from $1,600 to $2,100. The second phase implemented in April 2021 raised the salary limit to $2,600.

This means that before the amendment, workers who earned $1,600 and below were allowed to seek compensation through WICA. However, now unskilled employees earning $2,600 have the option of seeking redress under WICA.

While these employees have the chance of getting compensation under WICA, they can also file a civil lawsuit under common law should they so wish.

Ministry of Manpower (MOM) handles claims made under WICA.

The process of getting compensation is much easier under WICA than common law. When an employee is injured, all he has to do is make a formal report with the employer. The employer then notifies MOM.

The worker is not required to do much after this since the amount of compensation is predetermined, depending on how much the employee earns. Work injury compensation insurance takes into account the employee’s position, risk exposure and salary.

Assistant commissioners in MOM will look into the claim and decide on the compensation. Employees who choose a civil suit in common law will have their case heard by the judges.

Legal representation is necessary for a civil suit. 

Employees with work injury compensation insurance and opt for WICA compensation do not need a lawyer. MOM officials provide the necessary guidance. However, the advice employees receive do not count as legal representation. Since there are set limits for compensation, a lawyer is not necessary since the worker cannot negotiate for higher compensation.

A common law civil suit requires the presence of a lawyer to argue the case for the employee. There is the possibility of a complication, especially since the insurer may dispute the requested compensation or even the extent of the injury. Unfortunately, this means the worker has to cover the legal fees. This makes the process of requesting compensation through common law costly.

Under WICA, proof of fault is not required.

Many employees seek work injury compensation under WICA because they are under no obligation to prove fault or negligence. This often complicates the process of seeking compensation under work injury compensation insurance.

When one opts to go the WICA route, he only needs to prove that it was a work injury or disease resulting from exposure in the work environment.

If an employee chooses common law civil suit, he not only needs to prove the injury occurred at work, but he also has to prove that the employer or third party is at fault. If the insurer proves it was the employee’s negligence that led to the accident, the employee risks losing the suit and the possibility of getting compensation.

Workers need to choose whether they should get compensation through WICA or pursue compensation through common law. WICA is often the safest route because the process is more direct, and compensation often guaranteed. Common law civil suit is more complex and costly, but a worker may get more compensation.

Before deciding on the option to take, workers are better off exploring the possible outcome of each approach. If one is unlikely to prove fault for the accident, it is best to accept a lower compensation under WICA instead of risking losing the case under common law.