Parliament: No change to employer's responsibility for work injury compensation with work-from-home arrangements, says Zaqy

Workers should only return to the workplace if they have no alternative.
Workers should only return to the workplace if they have no alternative.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Work-from-home arrangements do not change an employer's responsibility for work injury compensation, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Thursday (June 4).

The key, he said, is to ascertain that the injury arose while doing work at home, and not while performing non-work activities.

This is a fact-finding exercise that is no different from all other work injury compensation (WIC) claims, he told Parliament.

Since the start of the circuit breaker period on April 7, two work injuries at home have been reported. Both claims are currently being examined.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) started to track such injuries at home given the increased prevalence of remote working arrangements, said Mr Zaqy.

Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) had sought greater clarity on the work injury compensation, with more people working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"When the home becomes a workplace, I think the burden of proof, the level of control by employers will change drastically," said Mr Tay, who is assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress.

He asked how MOM would determine workplace injuries in a work-from-home scenario, and if there would be a significant change to the WIC regime, including insurance premiums.

Mr Zaqy said WIC insurance is purchased by employers and will cover employees who were injured while working at home. So far, MOM has not seen any changes to insurance premiums.

For a claim to be valid, Mr Zaqy said there should be evidence that the accident occurred while in the act of working at home.

He added that all past eligible WIC claims arising from work-at-home situations were successfully compensated or settled without disputes.

 
 
 
 

"So far, if you look at the valid claims in the past, they have mostly been minor injuries. There have been no permanent incapacity or fatal cases."

The Government has stipulated that working from home should remain the default option for all employees as the economy reopens after the circuit breaker.

Workers should only return to the workplace if they have no alternative, such as to use specialised equipment or fulfil legal requirements.

Separately, Mr Zaqy said the authorities remain very concerned by the number of major hand and finger injuries suffered at work.

There were 149 major hand and finger injuries at work last year, and 123 led to amputation.

This translates to 3.5 cases of hand and finger amputations per 100,000 workers - a 30 per cent improvement from 2012 when the incidence of hand and finger amputations was 4.8 per 100,000 workers.

The top three causes for such accidents were a lack of effective machine guards,a failure to follow safe work procedures and a lack of adequate safe work procedures like lock-out procedures to prevent machine activation during servicing.

Mr Zaqy said in response to Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) that the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council has stepped up public education on the safe use of machinery, among other campaigns to improve safety.

From October 2017 to December last year, 38 workers who had hand and finger amputations enrolled into the Return to Work Programme, which provides early intervention services to help injured workers regain their work ability and long-term employability.

Of the 38, 34 successfully returned to work.