When an employee suffers an injury at home during work hours, the question of employer liability arises. Is the obligation to ensure employee safety upheld when staff work from home? Zaqy Mohamad, the Minister of State for Manpower, clarified during a June parliamentary session that workers can seek compensation for injuries, irrespective of their work location. “Remote working doesn’t alter an employer’s accountability for work injury compensation,” stated Mohamad. He emphasized the importance of determining whether the injury occurred during work-related activities at home, not during personal tasks. This determination process mirrors that of traditional work injury claims. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) highlighted that the burden of proof for injury claims rests with the employee. Employers aren’t responsible for compensating injuries incurred during non-work activities, such as personal breaks or chores. However, MOM affirmed that the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) protects all employees, regardless of their work location. WICA covers both local and foreign employees, under any form of contract or apprenticeship, without discrimination based on salary, age, or nationality. It doesn’t extend to independent contractors or self-employed individuals. Under WICA, covered employees can seek compensation for:
- Wages during medical leave due to work-related injuries or illnesses.
- Medical expenses, including hospitalization, medication, and other related costs.
- Lump-sum compensation in cases of permanent disability or death.
For non-permanent injuries, employees can claim:
- Wages for days covered by medical leave or hospitalization, up to a year from the accident date.
- Medical expenses related to the work accident, within a year from the accident, or up to $45,000, whichever limit is reached first.
Disputes and Resolution: Mohamad noted that employers typically have Work Injury Compensation (WIC) insurance to cover home-based work injuries. While employees have the right to claim, disputes can arise. Employers and insurers can contest claims within 14 days after the injury assessment. Disputes generally concern the assessment of ‘permanent incapacity’ or the work-related nature of the injury. In such cases, a panel of doctors re-evaluates the injuries, with their assessment deemed conclusive. The disputing party must cover the re-assessment fee of $357 and any additional test costs. Failure to pay these fees timely may invalidate the objection. After resolving disputes, MOM issues a court order for compensation payment within 21 days. Non-payment is a serious offence, attracting fines up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both.
In conclusion, as companies enhance initiatives for employee well-being and engagement, maintaining duty of care is crucial, regardless of the employee’s location. The responsibility towards employees extends beyond the physical workplace.