Mediation Act to commence from 1 November 2017
1. The Mediation Bill was passed in Parliament on 10 January 2017. Following the completion of consultations with various stakeholders, the Mediation Act and its subsidiary legislation, the Mediation Rules, will be in force from 1 Nov 2017.
2. The Act’s coverage includes international commercial mediation and strengthens the framework for enforcement of mediated settlements conducted in Singapore. It codifies certain issues previously dealt with under common law such as confidentiality of communications in the context of mediation. This provides greater certainty and clarity for commercial parties who opt to conduct their mediation in Singapore.
3. The key features of the Act fall into four categories:
(i) Stay of court proceedings provisions;
(ii) Restrictions on disclosure and admissibility provisions;
(iii) Enforceability of settlement agreements resulting from mediation; and
(iv) Exceptions under the Legal Profession Act currently applicable to arbitration will be extended to mediation
4. One key feature of the Act is a provision (section 12) that allows parties to apply to a court to record their mediated settlement agreement as an order of court. This allows the agreement to be directly and immediately enforceable as a court order should there be a breach of its terms subsequently. For the time being, this provision will not apply to any agreement where the subject matter of the dispute is within the jurisdiction of the Family Justice Courts.
Designation of mediation service providers and approved certification scheme
5. Before a mediated settlement agreement can be recorded as an order of court under section 12 of the Act, certain requirements must be met, including that the mediation must have been administered by a designated mediation service provider or conducted by a certified mediator.
6. From 1 Nov 2017, the Minister for Law designates the following institutions as designated mediation service providers:
(i) Singapore International Mediation Centre;
(ii) Singapore Mediation Centre;
(iii) Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management; and
(iv) World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center
7. From 1 Nov 2017, the Minister for Law designates the Singapore International Mediation Institute Credentialing Scheme (SIMI Certified Mediator) as an approved certification scheme.
8. As Asia’s trade and business sectors continue to grow, regional demand for legal services, particularly in the area of dispute resolution, is expected to increase. Law firms and lawyers will benefit from the increase in international dispute resolution activity here.
9. Singapore provides a full suite of dispute resolution services (viz. litigation, arbitration, mediation) to cater to the varied needs of commercial users. Singapore has excelled in the area of arbitration and ranks among the world’s top seats for international arbitration, alongside London, Paris, Geneva, and Hong Kong. Singapore has also consistently ranked as the number one seat for International Chamber of Commerce arbitration in Asia.
10. In the area of commercial mediation, Singapore has taken steps to develop the industry further. The Mediation Act implements the last of the recommendations made by an International Commercial Mediation Working Group, set up in 2013 by the Chief Justice and the Ministry of Law to look into developing the international commercial mediation space in Singapore. The Singapore International Mediation Centre and Singapore International Mediation Institute were established in 2014 as part of a slew of measures to strengthen Singapore’s international commercial mediation services.