Singapore: What happened in 2021 and significant events in 2022
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Company law: The Companies and Limited Partnerships Acts will be reformed following consultation by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). The reforms will likely focus on the dematerialisation of share certificates for private companies, enhancements to Singapore’s regime on transparency and beneficial ownership of legal persons, and the designation of limited partnerships which meet prescribed criteria as fund limited partnerships.
Whistleblowing: The Listing Rules requirements on whistleblowing come into force in January 2022.
Board diversity: The Listing Rules will likely be amended to mandate all listed companies to have a board diversity policy as opposed to the current “comply or explain approach”.
Proposed amendments to the International Arbitration Act: The Ministry of Law continues to consider proposals to: (i) introduce a limited "opt-in" right of appeal on a point of law arising from an international arbitral award (where no right of appeal currently exists in respect of international awards); and (ii) permit parties to limit or waive certain grounds upon which an award may be challenged, such as for breach of natural justice or where the award exceeds the scope of the arbitration agreement.
Conditional fee agreements in arbitration and selected court proceedings: The Ministry of Law has proposed a bill to legalise the use of conditional fee agreements by lawyers with clients in arbitration and other proceedings before the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC). Such arrangements are currently prohibited under Singapore law. The bill is expected to be passed in early 2022.
Amendments to the Rules of Court: The amendments, which will come into force in April 2022, aim to streamline the civil justice process significantly. Key changes will include the consolidation of the majority of interlocutory applications into a single application, the narrowing of the scope of document production, and active case management by the courts through case management conferences throughout the life cycle of the case.
Vaccination at the workplace: From 1 January 2022, only employees who have been fully vaccinated, or have recovered from Covid-19 within the past 270 days, can return to their workplace. Employees who have not been vaccinated will not be permitted to return to the workplace unless they are medically ineligible to have a vaccine or have had a negative Covid-19 test. The test will need to be paid for by the employee.
Pension contributions: From 1 January 2022, Central Provident Fund contributions will be increased for employees aged 55 to 70 years who earn more than SGD 750 per month.
Retirement and re-employment: From 1 July 2022, the statutory retirement age and maximum re-employment age will be raised to 63 and 68, respectively.
Protection of local employees: From 1 September 2022, organisations who employ foreign workers will be required to pay all their local employees a minimum local qualifying salary of SGD 1,400 per month.
Workplace discrimination: The Government is expected to enact legislation to enshrine the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices into law and intends to establish a new tribunal to address workplace discrimination claims.
Payment Services (Amendment) Act: The Act, which aligns the Payment Services Act 2019 with recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force, was passed in Parliament after its second reading on 4 January 2021. The amendments to the Payment Services Act, which include the expansion of the scope of cross-border money transfer services and digital payment token services, have yet to come into force and take effect.
Environmental Risk Management Guidelines: Banks, asset managers and insurers have until June 2022 to implement the Environmental Risk Management Guidelines. This entails establishing a clear allocation of responsibilities for managing environmental risk and engaging higher-risk customers to improve their environmental risk profile, amongst other requirements.
Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to issue new outsourcing notice for banks following consultation: MAS has consulted on their proposed Notice to Banks on Management of Outsourced Relevant Services. This would impose requirements on banks where they obtain or receive Outsourced Relevant Services. MAS also intends to mirror requirements of this notice for merchant banks through a Notice to Merchant Banks on Management of Outsourced Relevant Services.
MAS is assessing whether a regulatory framework is necessary to guide the evolution of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) schemes: MAS has been engaging with BNPL providers, and reviewing the experience of other jurisdictions where such schemes are more prevalent, to assess whether a regulatory framework is necessary to guide the evolution of BNPL schemes as they become more widely used in Singapore. This could include the adoption of fair dealing practices by BNPL schemes, such as clear disclosure at the point of account opening to ensure that consumers are fully aware of the late fees that are chargeable if they do not pay on time.
MAS expected to respond to consultation on e-money and digital payment tokens: MAS is expected to issue its response to feedback on its consultation paper published in 2019 on the scope of e-money and digital payment tokens, which sought views on whether MAS’ current approach to regulating e-money and digital payment tokens under the Payment Services Act remains appropriate in light of industry developments.
MAS considering changes to Guidelines on Business Continuity Management: MAS has issued a second consultation on proposed revisions to its Guidelines on Business Continuity Management, which includes revisions to address feedback received from the first consultation published in 2019 and incorporates key learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic. It builds on the first consultation to further emphasise the need for financial institutions to take an end-to-end view in ensuring the continuous delivery of critical business services, and introduces principles and practices that financial institutions can implement to strengthen operational resilience.
MAS consults on proposed anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) notices: MAS is seeking views on its proposals to issue an AML/CFT Notice for financial institutions in the conduct of their operations and business activities in precious stones, precious metals and precious products. It is also consulting on updates to existing AML/CFT Notices for financial institutions and variable capital companies (VCCs) to ensure AML/CFT requirements for all financial institutions and VCCs continue to be effective in mitigating and managing the evolving money laundering and terrorist financing risks in Singapore’s financial sector.