Five new or amended laws in Singapore in 2019

A designated smoking area in Cuppage Terrace. (File photo: Gabriel Choo/ Yahoo Singapore)

By Theresa Ellsworth

From new rules that will keep smokers off the streets to doing away with some exams, Yahoo News Singapore looks at new or changed laws that will take effect in Singapore in 2019.

1. Clamping down on fake news

Laws are likely to take effect in 2019 to reinforce Singapore’s ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to ‘fake news’. They come on the back of 22 recommendations made by the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, and will allow the government to swiftly disrupt the spread of fake news to preserve Singapore’s harmony, keep terror threats at bay, and protect its position as a financial hub. Critics question if such laws will suppress free speech. On their part, major tech companies have said that they are also taking the issue of fake news seriously.

2. Clearing the air on Orchard Road

A precinct-wide smoking ban will take effect across Orchard Road on 1 January 2019, with the exception of about 40 designated smoking areas along the strip. The National Environment Agency has put up advertisements both on the strip and on buses that ply the area to publicise the No Smoking Zones. This big stub-out, originally planned for July 2018, was delayed to give businesses more time to prepare.

3. Greater protection for workers under Employment Act

Changes to the Employment Act (EA) providing greater protection for workers will take effect from 1 April 2019. While current provisions only apply to rank and file workers and PMETs earning under S$4,500, the removal of the salary cap will mean an additional 430,000 managers and executives will enjoy greater protection, including a minimum amount of paid annual leave and time off when they are sick. Other changes: The salary threshold for non-workmen such as clerks and receptionists will be increased, and the base salary used to calculate their overtime pay goes up from S$2,250 to S$2,600 per month.

4. Goodbye mugging, hello learning

Key changes by the Ministry of Education (MOE) will help students rediscover the joy of learning. From next year, there will be no assessments and exams for Primary 1 and 2 pupils, and Secondary 1 students will no longer have a mid-year exam. From 2020 or 2021, this will also apply to Primary 3, Primary 5 and Secondary 3 students. Schools will also be required to set just one class test per subject per term that can be counted towards the year-end score. And, despite the national love for ranking and lists, report books will no longer show a student’s position in a class or cohort.

5. Better protection for personal data

From September 1, 2019, organisations can no longer collect, use or disclose NRIC numbers, or make copies of identity cards. The stricter rules by the Personal Data Protection Commission urge organisations to only collect and retain NRIC numbers if they have to, and to dispose of them responsibly when they are no longer needed. The new laws have emerged amid concerns that NRIC numbers are permanent and irreplaceable identifiers, and that their collection or negligent handling could increase the risk of identity theft or fraud. These guidelines do not apply to the government, public agencies, or organisations acting on their behalf.


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