The business minister has announced employers could be banned from using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) preventing staff reporting allegations of harassment and discrimination to the police.
The news follows a swathe of high-profile cases where NDAs have allegedly been used to prevent former employees from revealing their experiences of bullying and sexual assault. An investigation suggested Sir Philip Green used NDAs to silence at least five members of staff who accused him of sexual harassment and racism.
Following the Green allegations, Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins urged the UK government to ban the use of NDAs in the workplace. ‘There shouldn’t be any shame or fear about calling out bad behaviour, but at the moment the environment is skewed to help the perpetrator,’ she said.
In March 2018, Perkins gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee, describing how the NDA she signed after leaving Miramax Films prevented her from talking to a doctor about her experience at the company unless the doctor also signed an NDA.
The proposals are part of a wider move to increase fairness in the workplace. The business minister Kelly Tolhurst commented: ‘Our proposals to change the law around NDAs and confidentiality clauses are just one step of many that we are taking to kickstart cultural change in the workplace. This includes encouraging more women at the top of business and requiring employers to publish gender pay data.’
However, Maria Miller, chairman of the Work and Equalities Committee is concerned the proposals may not go ‘far enough’ if they ‘simply reiterate the existing law’. The consultation, intended to ‘clarify the law’ around NDAs in the workplace, was launched by the government yesterday.