Government Responds to Call for Action on Non-Disclosure Agreements

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The government has finally published its response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s (WESC) June 2019 report on the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in workplace harassment and discrimination cases.

The response addresses all forty-five recommendations and concerns raised by the WESC in detail. It seems to be (mostly) a reiteration of the government’s previous response to its own consultation on proposals to prevent the misuse of confidentiality clauses in situations of workplace harassment or discrimination, published on 21 July 2019 (the July Response).

Key Recommendations That Will Be Carried Forward

  • A ban on provisions in NDAs or confidentiality clauses that prevent disclosures to the police, regulated health and care professionals and legal professionals.
  • A requirement that the limitations of NDAs to be clearly outlined in settlement agreements and employment contracts.
  • New enforcement measures for NDAs that do not comply with legal requirements in written statements of particulars and settlement agreements.
  • Guidance for solicitors and legal professionals responsible for drafting settlement agreements.
  • Enhance the independent legal advice received by individuals signing NDAs to include specific advice on the nature and limitations of any confidentiality clauses.

At present there is no timetable for brining legislation forward in respect of the above. There are a number of other areas where the government will continue to consult and consider its position. These include the obligation to provide factual references and extending the tie limit for bringing claims based on sexual harassment, pregnancy or maternity.

What Should Employers Do?

All employers should now have reviewed their settlement agreement wording, and any non-disclosure wording used in employment contracts, to ensure that they comply with the standards expected by government and guidance issued by The EHRC and the Law Society.

Gareth Edwards is a Partner in the Employment Law team at award-winning law firm VWV. Gareth can be contacted on 0117 314 5220 or at gedwards@vwv.co.uk.

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