NDAs Should Not Be Used To Silence Sexual Harassment Claims

10 February 2020

NDAs are, literally, Non-Disclosure Agreements.

They are very frequently used in business or employment to ensure that a party (or both parties) does not make certain information about the employer / business public. This could be because it is a company secret, or something that competitors could utilise to get ahead.

In more recent times, NDAs have come to the knowledge of the general public often as "gagging orders" or "tight-lip agreements" where they are entered into in order to protect damaging information about the company from getting out. Several high-profile scandals have revealed that this is often allegations of sexual harassment made by women.

Indeed, ACAS chief executive Susan Clews told the BBC that there had been an increase in the use of confidentiality clauses to "cover up wrongdoing" and "stop people talking about sexual harassment".

NDAs, when used legitimately, are a great tool to protect the company's interests and ensure that trade secrets and relevant confidential information are indeed kept confidential. However, the misuse of NDAs to silence those who make legitimate allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct could be incredibly damaging to both the individual and the business.

The damage ought to be obvious, it leaves them feeling unheard as the NDAs may be used to simply brush the problem under the carpet as opposed to the underlying issue. In those cases where sexual misconduct is involved, the NDA may serve as a 'green light' for the misconduct to continue as the company seeks to cover it up as opposed to tackling the issues head on and ensuring that the business-culture does not accept that type of behaviour.

It is important that, when a NDA is used, both the employer and employee understand the scope of the agreement and, of course, its purpose. It is recommended that employees are given a reasonable time in which to consider the NDA and obtain independent advice on it, from a trade union representative or a solicitor.

Gepp Solicitors in Essex are Experts in Employment Law

Whether you have been asked to sign an NDA and you are not sure of its purpose, or you want, as a business, to have an employee enter into such agreement.

Just as importantly, if you have experienced sexual harassment at work, our team can assist you in getting out of the situation and moving forward in an appropriate way. Our team of expert employment lawyers in Essex are on hand to help guide you through any employment issues.

Please do not hesitate to contact our team on 01245 228141 or via e-mail.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.