Sickness Allowance

Monday, July 9, 2018, 3:20 a.m.
By Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho

A medically repatriated seafarer would normally result in depriving him of compensation income due to his inability to perform his sea duties.

Away from his family and working on board vessels sailing non-stop for weeks or months the world’s oceans, the Filipino seafarer is physical, mentally and emotionally stressed. Constantly exposed to fluctuating temperatures caused by variant weather changes of extreme hot and cold as the ships cross ocean boundaries, not to mention harsh weather conditions, the risks of his getting killed, injured or ill are high.

The employer is liable for three separate and distinct kinds of liabilities under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC) for any work-related illness or injury that the seafarer may have suffered during the term of the contract. Employers must: (1) provide medical treatment to the seafarer at their cost; (2) pay the seafarer sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage and (3) compensate the seafarer for his permanent total or partial disability as finally determined by the company-designated physician.

The employer is liable for the full wage, while the seafarer is still on board and the cost of medical treatment in foreign ports. The employer also has to bear the cost of repatriation and treatment, and the seafarer is entitled to an additional sickness allowance.

To address the contingency of his repatriation to undergo treatment,   the POEA contract imposes on the employer the obligation to provide the seafarer with sickness allowance that is equivalent to his basic wage until the seafarer is declared fit to work or the degree of his permanent disability is determined by the company-designated physician. The period for the declaration should be made within the period of 120 days or 240 days, as the case may be. The number of days under medication is a significant element in determining the disability benefits of a seafarer who was a medically repatriated.

The amount of sickness allowance is the basic wage of the seafarer, counting from the day he signed off from the ship until the time he is declared fit to work or disability grading assessed by the company-designated physician.

The company is liable for the sickness allowance at the time when he is under treatment and waiting for the company-designated doctor to decide if the injury or illness is work-related.

If the seafarer is declared fit for duty after the medical treatment, the sickness allowance is the only benefit he could get. If the seafarer is further assessed disability grading due to irreparable physical damage, he could receive the said sickness allowance plus the disability benefits based on the grading system.

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