Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Singapore's Workers' Compensation Act may apply to certain types of gig workers

Out-Law News | 15 Jul 2022 | 1:50 am | 1 min. read

The Singapore's Worker's Compensation Act (WICA) may be extended to apply to certain type of ‘employee-like’ gig workers to provide them greater financial protection when they get injured.

The existing WICA covers all local and foreign employees who are under a contract of service or contract of apprenticeship, regardless of salary, age or nationality. However, it does not cover independent contractors, the self-employed, domestic workers or uniformed personnel.

Local media recently reported that five delivery platform workers have died in traffic accidents in the past year and a half. Platform workers are workers who rely on online platforms for their income such as taxi drivers, private car drivers and delivery workers. They are regarded as self-employed and are not protected by the WICA or the Employment Act.

An advisory committee is looking into the issue and expects to make recommendations this year. The committee proposes that as long as a worker provides the same service, it should make no difference whether he is a platform delivery worker, or a worker engaged in delivery work as an employee.

According to senior minister of state for Manpower Koh Poh Koon, the classification of workers depends on the nature of the contract and arrangement between the company and the worker. Some factors are taken into consideration when determining if an individual is an employee or independent contractor. These factors include whether the company provides workplace and equipment and whether the worker must meet certain key performance indicators.

In the case of food and goods delivery platform workers, Koh argued that those workers were in fact more like employees, given the management controls exerted by the platforms and their algorithms.

Mayumi Soh of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture between MPillay and Pinsent Masons said: “The expansion of the WICA to include ‘employee-like’ gig workers is likely to raise legal issues which may further blurry the lines between employee and independent contractor. Employers should take note of the developments in this field.”

Under the WICA, as long as the statutory criteria are met, the minimum compensation for accidental death of an employee is S$76,000 and can go up to S$225,000, depending on the employee’s age and monthly salary. The compensation in the event of permanent incapacity ranges from S$97,000 to S$289,000, according to disability level.