How to Claim Compensation for an Occupational Disease in Singapore

Last updated on September 1, 2020

woman coughing due to exposure of gas

What is an Occupational Disease?

An occupational disease is any disease contracted as a result of exposure to risk factors that arise from work activity, such as physical, chemical or biological hazards.

If you have contracted an occupational disease in Singapore, you may be able to claim compensation for it.

This article will explain which occupational diseases are claimable, who can claim compensation for occupational diseases and how you can make such a claim.

Examples of claimable occupational diseases

Occupational diseases which you can claim compensation for in Singapore are listed in the Second Schedules of either the Workplace Injury and Compensation Act (WICA) or the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA).

Examples of occupational diseases under the WICA include:

  • Occupational skin diseases
  • Poisoning by carbon monoxide gas
  • Lead poisoning

Examples of occupational diseases under the WSHA include:

  • Noise-induced deafness
  • Occupational asthma
  • Silicosis

Depending on which Act the occupational disease you have contracted falls under, the individual(s) required to report their disease to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) may differ (see below).

Who Can Claim Compensation for an Occupational Disease?

As long as you are an employee under a contract of service (oral or written) or a contract of apprenticeship (including internships), you will be covered by the WICA and allowed to make claims for an occupational disease under it, subject to certain situations (see below).

Even if you have ceased employment, you can still seek compensation if you contract an occupational disease under the WICA within a certain time-frame after ceasing employment.

This time-frame for claiming compensation can be found in the third column of the Second Schedule of the WICA and is generally 12 months after the date you ceased employment. This is except for if you have contracted silicosis or asbestosis, where the time-frame would be within 3 years after the date you ceased employment.

If you are working outside of Singapore, you are also eligible to claim for an occupational disease provided that you are:

  • A Singapore resident;
  • Employed by an employer in Singapore; and
  • Required in the course of the employment to work outside Singapore

The following persons however cannot make a claim for an occupational disease:

  • Independent contractors (e.g. freelancers)
  • Domestic workers
  • Uniformed personnel of the Singapore government (e.g. Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Police Force)

Under Which Situations am I Allowed to Claim Compensation?

You can claim compensation for an occupational disease if the type of occupational disease contracted is a result of the nature of your occupation.

This is provided for in the Second Schedule of the WICA where the first column describes the type of occupational diseases and the second column states the nature of occupations, which involves being exposed to a particular chemical or biological agent.

For example, if the occupational disease you’ve contracted is “byssinosis” (as stated in the first column) and the cause of which is your nature of occupation which involves exposure to raw cotton fibre (as stated in the second column), then you can claim compensation for that occupational disease.

Nevertheless, you can still claim compensation for an occupational disease which is not listed under the WICA as long as you show that:

  • The disease suffered was directly caused by being exposed to a chemical or biological agent;
  • The disease had arisen out of your employment or in the course of your employment; and
  • You suffered incapacity or death as a result of the disease contracted. (In the event of death, your dependants will be able to obtain the compensation instead.)

When am I Not Allowed to Claim Compensation for an Occupational Disease?

There will be no compensation if:

  • You suffered incapacity after you ceased employment and after the time limit stated in the third column of the Second Schedule of the WICA for your occupational disease suffered; or
  • The occupational disease you suffered is not stated under the WICA or WSHA and you suffered incapacity more than 1 year after you ceased being exposed to the biological and chemical agent.

What Can I Claim and How Much Can I claim?

Under the WICA, you may claim for the following types of compensation:

  • Lost earnings: this includes lost earnings for working days for which you were issued medical leave due to an occupational disease;
  • Medical expenses: this includes your hospital bills, medication and other charges arising from the occupational disease suffered; and
  • Lump-sum compensation: this compensation only applies if you have suffered permanent incapacity or death.

For further details, please refer to our other article on the types of work injury claims and claim amounts.

How Do I Claim Compensation for an Occupational Disease?

If you have contracted an occupational disease (whether listed under WICA or WSHA), you can either make a claim under the WICA, or through the courts under a common law civil claim.

Between these two methods, making a claim under the WICA may be more preferable as it is generally a faster and more affordable option, where compensation is generally payable once certain conditions are met and procedures have been complied with.

On the other hand, making a common law civil claim may allow you to claim for higher compensation amounts, but you will need to prove that you are entitled to such higher compensation. If your common law civil claim fails, you will not be able to make a subsequent claim under WICA in respect of the same occupational disease.

You may wish to consult an employment lawyer on which method of claiming for an occupational disease would be more appropriate for your situation.

The process of claiming compensation for an occupational disease under the WICA is as follows:

1. Seek medical treatment and inform your employer immediately

2. Your employer or doctor will make an incident report to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)

For occupational diseases under either WICA or WSHA, your employer will make an incident report to MOM within 10 days of receiving a written diagnosis.

If you have contracted some other occupational disease not covered under either WICA or WSHA, your employer will make an incident report if you were required to take medical leave or were put on light duties as a result of contracting the disease.

Your doctor, on the other hand, will also need to make an incident report if you have contracted an occupational disease under the WSHA (but not the WICA), within 10 days of the diagnosis and inform your employer of the diagnosis in writing.

In making a diagnosis, a doctor may refer you to an occupational health clinic for further investigation if they are unsure if the disease is work-related. Once an incident report is made, claims processing will automatically begin.

3. Decide if you wish to claim under the WICA

You will then have to decide whether you wish to claim for your occupational disease under the WICA.

If you wish to make a claim, MOM will mail you a claims processing form requesting for more details on the accident and your average monthly earnings. Fill in the claims processing form and submit a scanned copy of it using MOM’s WicSubmit eService or mailing it to the MOM Services Centre.

If you don’t wish to make a claim, you will need submit a withdrawal request within 2 weeks of MOM being notified of the situation.

4. Attend a medical assessment if you wish to claim

If you wish to claim, you will need to attend a medical assessment to assess the extent of your incapacity. You must attend all medical appointments for the medical assessment. Otherwise, your claim may be suspended.

You may seek treatment from any hospital or medical institution. However, your company may request for you to be treated or assessed by company-approved hospitals or medical institutions.

5. Receive Notice of Assessment (NOA) and compensation

Thereafter, you will receive an NOA notifying you, your employer and your employer’s insurer of the compensation amount.

If no one objects to the NOA, your employer or your employer’s insurer is required to issue your compensation cheque within 21 days from the date of service of the NOA.

However, if someone objects to the assessment, they must submit the objection form attached to the NOA within 14 days from the date of service of the NOA.

Your compensation may be reassessed any time within 3 years after the date of service of your NOA, if the condition of your incapacity has worsened and the previous compensation was inadequate.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Claim Compensation for an Occupational Disease?

You are able to file a WICA claim on your own. However, an experienced lawyer will be able to assess your particular situation and advise you whether you should make a claim under the WICA or the common law. The lawyer can assist you with filing the WICA claim, if you so wish.

Alternatively, if you intend to make a claim under the common law, the lawyer can help to prove to the court that your employer was negligent and caused you to suffer the occupational disease, which may increase the chances of your claim succeeding and you obtaining a larger compensation amount.

Feel free to get in touch with our employment lawyers for further assistance.

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