The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) may finally be taking the first steps towards getting tough on errant employeers – this according to observers after the MOM fined a company, Lyon & Dianzi Pte Ltd, for failing to pay injury compensation to an employee.

This is the first time an employer has been prosecuted for failing to pay medical compensation, says MOM.

According to the State Courts ruling, marketing communications company Lyon & Dianzi was fined $8,000 after it refused to pay injury compensation to a senior art director of the company, who had fallen down a flight of stairs at work and suffered a permanent incapacity in December 2012.

Lyon & Dianzi was then issued an Order by an Assistant Commissioner in March 2014 to pay S$18,262.64 to the employee for medical leave wages and medical expenses, and another Order in June 2014 to pay $$21,800 for the permanent incapacity sustained.

However, the employer failed to pay the employee so despite being given ample opportunity to do so, said MOM. Lyon & Dianzi was then prosecuted under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA).

Under the Act, it is not mandatory for employers to purchase insurance to cover their liability under WICA for non-manual workers earning more than S$1,600 per month. However, they remain liable to pay compensation should there be a valid claim filed by such workers who are injured during the course of work, said MOM.

“Employers are liable to pay compensation to their employees who sustained injuries in the course of their work, including those employees for whom insurance for work injury compensation is not mandatory,” said Ms Kee Ee Wah, Director of the Work Injury Compensation Department of MOM. “Therefore, to protect themselves against compensation claims, employers are encouraged to purchase work injury compensation insurance for all employees and ensure that the insurance policy is adequate to cover eligible claims under WICA,” she added.

“We will not hesitate to act against employers who do not discharge their responsibility to injured employees”.

However, some observers have questioned whether small fine amounts (in this case $8,000) has enough bite to discourage errant employers from renegading on their responsibilities. It remains to be seen whether MOM truly has the Singaporean workers’ interests at heart.

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