The Ministry of Manpower says only one percent of work injury claimants find themselves facing employers who did not have work injury insurance. Straits Times, Thurs, 30 Aug 2012. It also concedes that the vast majority of cases in which employers did not have work injury insurance were not prosecuted.
No escape from the law for guilty bosses: MOM
TRANSIENT Workers Count Too expressed concerns about employers who failed to purchase insurance for work injury compensation (“Enforce law requiring work injury compensation insurance”; Aug 22). In fact, the vast majority of permanent incapacity claims are insured. From 2007 to last year, an average of 4,800 permanent incapacity claims were awarded each year. Of these, almost 99 per cent were insured.
Fewer than 60 cases per year were not insured. The reasons for the failure to insure vary.
Many are the result of an administrative oversight; a small number arise due to the companies’ financial difficulty.
Over the same period, we prosecuted and convicted 14 employers for non-insurance and non-payment of compensation, while for the remaining cases, employers subsequently paid out the work injury compensation due to workers.
The letter cited anecdotes that we advised workers to sue the employers. This is inaccurate.
Should employers refuse to make good the work injury payment despite our intervention, we will prosecute such employers.
Workers who face difficulty in recovering compensation are advised to approach us for assistance. We have interpreters on hand to better assist workers with their issues.
We do not condone the non-payment of compensation due to injured workers by employers and will not hesitate to enforce the requirements.
Employers are required under the Work Injury Compensation Act to maintain work injury compensation insurance for (i) all employees doing manual work and; (ii) non-manual employees earning $1,600 or less a month.
The malpractices by a small number of employers to save cost by not insuring, as well as not paying the compensation awarded, are not acceptable.
Errant employers face prosecution and are subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months. They also risk having their $5,000 security bond forfeited and being barred from hiring foreign workers.
Farah Abdul Rahim (Ms)
Director, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Manpower
The assertion that in situations when the employer was not prosecuted, it was because compensation was finally paid out to the injured worker, is simply not true. Kabir’s story (Parts 1 and 2) illustrates one such example. The employer in this case neither paid compensation nor was he prosecuted. He got off scot-free and it does not seem to bother MOM. There are other cases like Kabir’s which TWC2 has not yet featured on this website.
MOM’s letter was in response to one from TWC2, published in the August 22 edition of the Straits Times Forum:
Radha Basu was spot on when she wrote that enhanced laws on migrant labour will mean little without enforcement (Sunday Times, 19 August 2012, Mind the gap between principle and practice).
In this connection, among the worst failings has been where employers have not bought insurance for work injury compensation. After an industrial accident, a worker suffers a permanent incapacity that diminishes his future ability to support himself and his family. Yet the employer does not pay compensation even when so ordered, citing its own cash flow problems and lack of insurance. Typically, workers report to us at Transient Workers Count Too that they’ve been advised by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to sue the employer, but such a process requires a lawyer and court fees which low-wage workers, already destitute, cannot afford.
The problem should have been nipped in the bud with vigorous enforcement of the existing law requiring work injury insurance, yet going by the number of heartbreaking cases our group sees, the problem persists.
MOM should disclose how many cases of permanent incapacity occurred in each of the last five years, how many cases didn’t have work injury insurance and how many successful prosecutions there have been in the same period.
Alex Au Waipang
Treasurer, Transient Workers Count Too