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Employment Law: Non-disclosure agreements

In the year of the #metoo campaign, there have been numerous headlines about the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), often involving high profile people. NDAs are used to ensure past misdemeanours stay private. Many settlement agreements contain confidentiality provisions preventing employees talking about the deal and the events leading up to it.

The Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry into the use of NDAs in discrimination and harassment cases. The enquiry will cover the use of NDAs in all forms of discrimination and harassment, not just sexual harassment.

The Committee will look at whether NDAs are more prevalent in certain types of discrimination. It will investigate whether NDAs should be banned or restricted in these types of case and whether safeguards should be put in place to prevent misuse. The enquiry will also ask questions about the role of internal grievances procedures as well as the responsibilities of boards and directors in relation to NDAs.

The Committee’s job is to examine how well the government is doing its job in relation to equality issues. It can make recommendations if it feels the government’s performance falls short. We will not know the outcome of the inquiry until well in 2019. In the meantime, employers should take advice on the use of NDA and confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements and ensure employees do the same.