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10 things to know about the Workmen’s Compensation Act

Being injured at work is a distressing experience for both worker and employer.

The Workmen’s Compensation Act Chapter 88:05 looks at injuries and deaths that occur at a workplace as a result of a workman carrying out his assigned duties as well as compensation owed to the workman.

Here are 10 things to note about the Workmen’s Compensation Act Chapter 88:05 24 of 1960*:

1. Who’s eligible under the Act?

Under the Act, a workman is identified as:

“any person who has entered into or works under a contract of service or apprenticeship with an employer, whether by way of manual labor or otherwise, whether the contract was made before or after the commencement of this Act (that is, 15th November 1960) , and whether such contract is expressed or implied, oral or in writing, whether the remuneration is calculated by time or by work done, and whether by the day, week, month or with reference to any other period whatever”.

The term includes “a person engaged in fishing on board any fishing vessel or in plying for hire with any vehicle or vessel the use of which is obtained by that person under any contract of bailment (other than a hire-purchase agreement) in consideration of the payment of a fixed sum or a share in the earnings or otherwise”

The following persons aren’t regarded as workmen for the purposes of the Act:

(a) persons employed otherwise than by way of manual labor whose earnings exceed five thousand dollars a year or such other sum as may be prescribed;

(b) persons whose employment is of a casual nature and who are employed otherwise than for the purposes of the employer’s trade or business, not being persons employed for the purposes of any game or recreation and engaged or paid through a club;

(c) outworkers;

(d) members of the employer’s family dwelling in his house;

(e) members of the Defense Force of Trinidad and Tobago and any auxiliary force attached thereto; or First Schedule.

(f) members of the Police Service and members—

(i) of any Police organization having the general powers of members of the Police Service constituted by law and in respect of whom provision exists in any law for the payment of a gratuity or pension in case of injury or death; or

(ii) of any Fire Service.

Who counts as an employer?

‘Employer’ includes the government and any body of persons whether incorporated or not and any managing agent of an employer and the legal personal representative of a deceased employer.

The Act states “where the services of a workman are temporarily lent or let on hire to another person by the person with whom the workman has entered into a contract of service or apprenticeship, the latter shall, for the purposes of this Act be deemed to continue to be the employer of the workman whilst he is working for that other person”.

For a person engaged in plying a vehicle for hire via a contract (other than a hire-purchase agreement), the person from whom the use of the vehicle or vessel is so obtained shall be deemed to be the employer.

Also, in relation to a person employed for the purposes of any game or recreation and engaged or paid through a club, the manager or members of the managing committee of the club shall be deemed to be the employer.

2. When is a worker eligible for compensation?

The Act states:

“If in any employment personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment is caused to a workman, his employer shall, subject as mentioned below, be liable to pay compensation in accordance with the following provisions:

“Provided that—

(a) the employer shall not be liable under this Act in respect of any injury which does not disable the workman for a period of at least three days from working for full earnings at the work at which he was employed;

“(b) if it is proved that the injury to a workman is attributable to the serious and wilful misconduct of that workman, any compensation claimed in respect of that injury shall, unless the injury results in death or serious and permanent disability, be disallowed. .

Additionally, the Act states that an accident resulting in the death or serious and permanent disablement of a workman shall be deemed to arise out of and in the course of his employment:

“notwithstanding that the workman was at the time when the accident happened acting in contravention of any statutory or other regulation applicable to his employment, or of any orders given by or on behalf of his employer, or that he was acting without instructions from his employer , if such act was done by the workman for the purposes of, and in connection with, his employer’s trade or business”.

Under S4(3) any compensation payable to an adult workman cannot be paid out after four years from the date of the incident, and under S11(1) a claim must be filed within a year of the date of the incident.

4. Common-law wives can be classified as dependents

Under the Act, a dependent includes the child of a workman’s family and any other members of a workman’s family “wholly or in part” dependent on his earnings at the time of his death.

A “dependent female” includes any woman who lived with the workman as his wife, “although not legally married to him” for at least 12 months immediately before the date on which the workman died or was incapacitated as a result of the accident, and was either wholly or partially dependent on his earnings.

5. Compensation for permanent disability

Section 5 of the Act states where death results from the injury, a ‘lump sum’ of an amount can be paid, calculated as follows:

  • (a)(i) if the workman leaves any dependents wholly dependent on his earnings, the lump sum shall be a sum equal to thirty-six months (three years) earnings
  • (a)(ii) if the workman does not leave any dependents wholly dependent on his earnings, but leaves any dependents in part so dependent, the lump sum shall be such sum not exceeding in any case the amount payable under subparagraph (i) as may be agreed upon or, in default of agreement, may be determined by the Commissioner, to be reasonable and proportionate to the injury to the said dependents;
  • if the workman leaves no dependents, the lump sum shall be the aggregate of reasonable expenses of the burial of the deceased workman, not exceeding the sum of $500.

Where ‘permanent total disability’ results from the injury of an adult workman, the Act says compensation equal to two years (48 months) earnings should be paid.

If the worker was a minor, 96 months earnings should be paid.

Where ‘permanent partial disability’ results from the injury, for an injury listed in the Second Schedule, the compensation would be ‘the percentage of the incapacity caused by that injury’.

For an injury not listed in the Second Schedule, “such a percentage of the compensation payable in the case of permanent total disability as is proportionate to the incapacity permanently caused by the injury”.

If there are multiple injuries, the compensation can be aggregated but the amount must not exceed what would have been payable if permanent total disability had resulted from the injuries.

6. Compensation for temporary disability

In the case of total or partial temporary disablement resulting from a work injury, compensation consists of a “half-monthly payment payable on the sixteenth day from the date of the disablement, and thereafter half-monthly during the disablement or during a period of five years, whichever period is shorter”.

“(i) in the case of an adult, of a sum equal to one-third of his monthly earnings, and

(ii) in the case of a minor, of a sum equal to one-half or, after he has attained the age of seventeen years, to one-third of his monthly earnings”.

For permanent disablement, any interim compensation paid by the employer would be deducted once the amount doesn’t exceed 50 per cent of the lump sum to be paid.

For temporary disablement:

“there shall be deducted from any half-monthly payments to which the workman is entitled to the amount of any payment or allowance which the workman has received from the employer by way of compensation during the period of disability prior to the receipt of the first half- monthly payment and no half-monthly payment shall in any case exceed the amount, if any, by which half the amount of the monthly earnings of the workman before the accident exceeds half the amount of such earnings as he is receiving in some suitable employment or business after the accident or which, but for his refusal to work in some suitable employment or business, he would have received.”

7. Compulsory insurance

Under the Act, employers must have insurance:

“24. (1) Subject to this Act, it shall not be lawful for any person to employ any workman unless there is in force in relation to the employment of that workman a policy of insurance; but this subsection shall not apply where the employer is the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Any employer who contravenes this shall be guilty of an offence.

8. Agreement by a workman to absolve employer of liability ‘null and void’

S45 of the Act states:

“Any contract or agreement, whether made before or after the commencement of this Act (that is, 15th November 1960), whereby a workman relinquishes any right of compensation or to medical aid from the employer as provided by this Act, shall be null and void in so far as it purports to remove or reduce the liability of any person to pay compensation or provide medical aid under this Act.”

9. Occupational diseases contracted while working

A workman can also be entitled to compensation subject to provisions of the Act, where the disease was contracted during his employment, if he’s disabled or dies, unless it’s a pre-existing condition.

This would entail the involvement of a medical board appointed by the Minister and the granting of a certificate showing that the workman is suffering or died from a scheduled disease (disease listed on Schedule 1) and that this was due to his employment.

Some of the listed Schedule 1 diseases include poisoning by lead, mercury, phosphorous, arsenic, anthrax or radiation, Pneumoconioses (lung diseases) and Asbestosis, among others.

10. What’s a permanent disability and what percentage of compensation does it merit?

See the Second Schedule outlining what’s considered a permanent disability under the Act:

For the full Act see here: https://bit.ly/3Mt0KsA

The Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association has also shared helpful information here: https://bit.ly/3tl31iW

*Editor’s note: This article is for information purposes and is not intended to be used as legal advice. If you are seeking information on compensation related to an injury at the workplace please contact a registered attorney or trade union.

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