Death of an Employee in Singapore: What Should Employers Do?

Last updated on September 14, 2020

lady covering body

Death is never an easy matter to talk about. If you have just received news of your employee’s death at work you might be wondering what are the steps you, as an employer in Singapore, should take.

This article will help to answer some questions you may have on this topic including:

Immediate Steps 

As an employer, there are some immediate steps you should take in situations where your employee’s death has occurred at the workplace, as well as outside of the workplace.

Where the employee’s death occurred at the workplace

An employee may die from non-work related causes while at work, such as suffering a fatal heart attack while in the office, or die as a result of work, such as a construction worker falling to his death from an unstable scaffold at a construction site.

If an employee dies at the workplace, employers must:

1. Notify the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) at 6317 1111 as soon as reasonably practicable.

  • Employers will need to provide details of the date and time of their employee’s death, place of death, name and identification number of their employee, and the workplace occupier where applicable. The workplace occupier is the person who has control of the premises which employees work in. Alternatively, in the case of a factory registered with MOM, the occupier is the person who holds the certificate of registration. The workplace occupier’s duty is to ensure that the workplace and equipment used are safe.
  • Employers will also need to describe the accident briefly, and leave their name and contact details.

2. Submit an incident report

  • Employers will need to submit an incident report to MOM using the WSH Incident Reporting eService within 10 days of the accident or occupational disease leading to the employee’s death.
  • (Note: Employers must report their employee’s death even if they have missed the 10-day deadline, and provide reasons for late reporting in the incident report.)
  • In the incident report, employers will need to provide their personal particulars, company details and details of the accident or death.
  • Employers will also need to provide other details of their deceased employee, including his or her personal particulars, employment, and insurance.
  • Remember to save or print the submitted report as employers are required to keep all incident reports for 3 years.
  • After employers have submitted an incident report, MOM may investigate the accident site and process work injury compensation claims.

3. Inform the insurer

Employers may also wish to inform their insurer about the death or accident as soon as they can, in order to get reimbursement from their insurer for any expenses that will be incurred.

Where the employee’s death occurred outside of the workplace 

If the employee’s death occurs outside of the workplace, employers will still need to notify the Commissioner and submit an incident report, as described above, as long as the death of their employee is work-related.

Such scenarios include where:

  • An employee meets with a traffic accident while travelling during work or for work, regardless of the mode of transport. An example would be an employee meeting with a traffic accident while driving his own car or taking the bus to a company meeting.
  • An employee meets with a traffic accident while taking company transport to and fro his or her home and workplace.
  • A seaman dies while onboard a Singapore-registered vessel, regardless of the location of the vessel.
  • An employee was injured in a work accident or contracted an occupational disease due to work exposure to biological or chemical agents and subsequently dies from the injury or disease outside the workplace.

Failure to notify and report an accident or occupational disease leading to an employee’s death is an offence. An employer found guilty of this offence could face a fine of up to $5,000 for the first offence, and a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to 6 months’ jail for subsequent offences.

If you had already submitted an incident report when your employee was injured in a work accident, or at the time he/she contracted an occupational disease, you do not need to submit it again in the unfortunate circumstances that the employee consequently dies. However, you still must notify the Commissioner immediately.

Payment of Any Monies or Salary Due 

A deceased employee may have accrued salary, and any other sums (such as public holiday pay), before his or her death. Employers should settle all outstanding employment issues, including the payment of any monies owed or salary due to the deceased employee.

The amount to be paid to your employee will depend on the employment contract signed between you and your employee. For employees who receive monthly payments, the amount should be calculated based on the number of days your employee had worked in that month until his death.

The salary can be paid into the deceased employee’s bank account. However, once the bank is notified of the deceased’s death, there will be an immediate “freeze” of the deceased employee’s bank account(s). In such circumstances, and if possible, you may want to contact the next-of-kin or the deceased’s personal representative on how to proceed with the payment of salary and other monies due.

The deceased’s personal representative is the person who is authorised to manage the deceased’s estate, whether via a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration.

Payment of Maternity Benefits Where a Female Employee Dies During Maternity Leave

Every female employee on maternity leave is entitled to receive a form of payment, known as a maternity benefit, from her employer at her gross rate of pay.

Under section 79 of the Employment Act, if a female employee is on maternity leave and dies from any cause before confinement, her employer must pay her maternity benefit to the person nominated by her to receive such benefit, or her personal representative if there is no one nominated.

The amount of the maternity benefit payable is capped at 30 days’ worth of gross rate of pay, unless the duration of time from the employee’s last day of work to the day right before her death exceeds 30 days.

If the female employee dies on or after the day of confinement and before any maternity benefit has been paid to her, the amount of maternity benefit to be paid is calculated from her last day of work up to the day before the day of her death, subtracting any maternity benefit that has already been paid to her. The payment must likewise be made to the female employee’s nominated person or her personal representative.

Payment of Compensation

Employers, or their insurers, may be required to pay work injury compensation for the employee’s death under the Workplace Injury Compensation Act (WICA).

Compensation is limited to the disease, or injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, that caused the employee’s death. This would include instances of death caused by meeting with an accident in a foreign country that the employee had been assigned to work in, and meeting with an accident while travelling to the workplace in a vehicle operated by or on behalf of the employer.

Compensation for the employee’s death is payable to the deceased employee’s estate or to the benefit of his dependants (i.e. family members).

In addition, the WICA is a no-fault compensation scheme. This means that if the WICA claim by the employee’s dependants is successful, employers must make such work injury compensation regardless of whether they were at fault for the injury causing the employee’s death.

The employee’s dependants may claim a lump-sum compensation, with the amount calculated from the employee’s average monthly earnings multiplied by an age multiplying factor.

The following compensation limits should also be noted:

Accidents before 1 January 2020 Accidents from 1 January 2020
Minimum compensation $69,000 $76,000
Maximum compensation $204,000 $225,000

When is an employer not required to pay compensation under WICA?

Employers are not liable to pay compensation under WICA if the employee met with an accident leading to his death that was not workplace-related. Employers are also not liable to pay for compensation under WICA for domestic workers, independent contractors and uniformed personnel of the government.

Additionally, employers need not pay compensation under WICA if employees die after they:

  • Injure themselves on purpose;
  • Deliberately make an existing injury more serious; or
  • Injure themselves when under the influence of alcohol or a prescription drug not prescribed by a doctor.

Returning of Employee’s Belongings at the Workplace to His/Her Family

Employers should arrange for the employee’s personal belongings at the workplace to be packed and delivered to the family, depending on how the family wishes for their loved one’s belongings to be handled.

What to Do If the Deceased Employee is a Foreigner

Informing MOM and employee’s family of the death 

If your foreign employee is a Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW), you are required to contact the police immediately upon her death. You also have to send your name, contact number, and your foreign worker’s name and Work Permit number to MOM via this feedback form within 12 hours of knowing about the death.

You should also contact the employee’s family to inform them of the death as soon as practicable so that arrangements can be made. Such arrangements include paying any outstanding salaries or payments to the worker’s next-of-kin or your employee’s appointed trustee if he or she has one. There will be a section below on handling the employee’s body and belongings.

Requesting to cancel work passes and permits 

The Employment Pass (EP), S Pass or Work Permit of the deceased foreign employee must be cancelled within 1 week after the death of the employee, or 1 day after the applicable work pass or work permit expires, depending on which comes first.

Either the employer or appointed employment agent can cancel the work pass or work permit. Employers must also return the cancelled work permit card within 1 week from cancellation by post.

Should employers be unable to return the card, such as where the card is missing or damaged beyond repair, they can use the WP Online’s “card return” function to explain why they are unable to return the card.

Note:Cancelling the main work pass will also cancel the Dependant’s Pass (DP), which will have implications on DP holders. You may refer to the section below for more information.

Requesting to cancel work permits for FDWs

Employers of deceased FDWs are required to cancel their work permit immediately after informing MOM of the death. This may be done through the FDW eService.

If the employer does not have a valid SingPass to access the FDW eService, he or she can submit to MOM a request to cancel the work permit of the deceased helper. An authorised person can also submit the request on behalf of the employer.

Employers will need to upload a copy of the employee’s death certificate, as well as the airway bill, burial certificate or cremation certification where applicable. MOM will cancel the work permit within 3 working days of receiving the request.

Employers may also wish to apply for a domestic helper levy waiver at the CPF website with a copy of the deceased’s death certificate. Employers can apply for it only after the levy has been charged and the application must be made within 1 year of the levy bill.

Bearing of costs in the handling of employee’s body and belongings

Depending on what the foreign employee’s family decides, employers have to bear the cost of either:

  • Having the body buried in Singapore;
  • Cremating the body in Singapore and returning the ashes to the employee’s home country; or
  • Returning the body to the employee’s home country.

Employers will also have to bear the cost of returning the foreign employee’s belongings to the family, as well as pay the family any outstanding salaries or monies due to the foreign employee.

If the employee’s family are on Dependant’s Passes in Singapore, does the employer need to pay for their repatriation?

As DP holders no longer have valid passes once the main work pass has been cancelled, they will need to leave Singapore. Employers are required to buy air tickets to send the DP holders to the international airport in their home country nearest to their hometown. This is unless a DP holder agrees in writing to bear the cost.

Employers can also request for a Short Term Visit Pass (STVP) to allow their employee’s family members who are DP holders to stay in Singapore for up to 30 days to settle their affairs. Once the pass expires, the family members must leave Singapore.

The death of an employee is an unfortunate situation which may leave you feeling distressed and at a loss for what to do next. Once you are aware of your employee’s death and the circumstances surrounding the death, you can then proceed with the necessary steps.

For workplace-related deaths, you should immediately notify the Commissioner, or the police in the case of FDWs. You should also submit an incident report to MOM, as well as inform your insurer about the death.

Thereafter, other actions may be appropriate: calling the employee’s next-of-kin to settle matters such as payment of compensation, any monies or salary due or maternity benefits, as well as the return of your employee’s belongings.

For foreign employees, their Work Passes need to be cancelled. You are required to bear the costs of handling the employee’s body and belongings, as well as the repatriation of the employee’s family if they are living in Singapore.

We hope that this article has helped you in understanding the steps you should take in dealing with the death of an employee. Should you require further assistance, please feel free to contact any one of our employment lawyers.

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