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General Insurance Association raises concerns on Singapore’s proposed coverage for platform workers

General Insurance Association raises concerns on Singapore’s proposed coverage for platform workers

Source: Business Times
Article Date: 25 Nov 2022
Author: Sharanya Pillai

The government has accepted a set of recommendations to strengthen basic protections for platform workers. Among these is a proposal for platform companies such as Grab and foodpanda.

The General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA) has raised concerns about Singapore’s plans to introduce employee-like insurance coverage for ride-hailing drivers and on-demand delivery persons, based on the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica).

The industry body, whose members include Chubb, Etiqa and Income Insurance, is instead calling for some tweaks to existing insurance products for this group.

On Wednesday (Nov 23), the government accepted a set of recommendations to strengthen basic protections for platform workers. Among these is a proposal for platform companies – such as Grab and foodpanda – to insure workers to the same level of employees under Wica.

The coverage will be based not just on earnings from a single platform, but all the platforms that the worker earns from in the sector. The committee also noted that the coverage should tap the Wica regime, rather than being an extension of existing products.

Responding to the proposal, GIA chief executive Ho Kai Weng said instead of using the Wica framework, platform workers can be protected through existing solutions, namely MediShield Life, prolonged medical leave (PML) insurance and group personal accident insurance, with some standardisation across platforms.

“While a Wica-based solution has many strengths that the advisory committee has identified, it also has its downsides. An employee on a fixed wage may find it easy to quantify his income, but a platform worker must quantify and prove his loss of income over many months, and for many of them, across multiple platforms,” he said.

With existing solutions, there would be reduced disputes on whether a worker was at work or not, and the amount of the worker’s lost earnings, as well as a wider scope of protection and less effort required by platform workers to compute and make their claims, Ho added.

On the issue of medical expenses, Ho said MediShield Life, which covers Singapore citizens and permanent residents, has limits far exceeding Wica medical expense limits of S$45,000.

For medical leave wages, he suggested existing PML insurance be adapted for longer-term income replacement beyond 60 days. Several platforms have bought PML insurance for their taxi and private-hire vehicle drivers since 2019.

And on permanent incapacity and death, Ho suggested that these can be covered with group personal accident or term life insurance, with platforms required to provide the same level of compensation. Coverage terms vary widely across platforms at present.

“The advantage is personal accident or term life insurance covers a platform worker 24 hours a day without having to prove if the worker was at work at the time of the accident,” he said.

Ho said GIA members firmly believe financial protection for platform workers can be efficiently achieved through the existing solutions compared to the Wica-based solution.

His comments stand in contrast to the stance of the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers, which came up with the recommendations after a year-long review. In its report, the committee explained why it did not recommend an extension of group personal accident insurance purchased by platform companies with fixed payouts.

“Platform companies would incur much higher premiums to provide personal accident insurance at the same scope and level as employees’ entitlement under Wica, as they would have to provide insurance coverage even when the platform worker was not injured at work,” it said.

The committee was also against a centralised model, as this would require strong government intervention, and restricting the market is unwarranted when there is already a competitive work injury insurance market.

The Wica model instead provides “a ready model to operationalise work injury insurance for platform workers”, the committee added.

“It offers the advantages of standard policy terms approved by the Ministry of Manpower, as well as established processes for reporting, claims admissibility, assessment standards and dispute resolution,” it explained.

Source: Business Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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