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New proposals to put an end to the unethical use of gagging clauses after employees conned into signing them

Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt
Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt

The proposals aimed at putting an end to the unethical use of these agreements include clarifying in law that confidentiality clauses cannot prevent people from speaking to the police and reporting a crime or prevent the disclosure of information in any criminal proceedings; requiring a clear, written description of rights before anything is signed in confidentiality clauses in employment contracts or within a settlement agreement and extending the law that means a worker agreeing to a settlement agreement receives independent advice.

It is hoped this will help prevent employees from being duped into signing gagging clauses which they were unaware of.

Evidence of the misuse includes examples where victims of harassment or discrimination have been silenced using the legal agreements, for example, suggesting that a worker cannot whistle-blow despite the fact that no provision can remove a worker’s whistle-blowing rights.

In addition, through an NDA or settlement agreement, employers could insist that a worker is unable to discuss an issue with other people or organisations, such as the police, a doctor or a therapist.

This can leave victims afraid to report an incident or speak out about their experiences, leaving others exposed to similar situations, and putting customers and other businesses at risk.

The proposals set out today to extend the requirement to receive legal advice to cover limits on confidentiality clauses and that signatories must be provided with a clear overview of their rights that will help end this practice.

Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt, said: “I want to make clear to anyone who thinks they can bully and harass people at work, the UK Government, good employers and the public will not accept this.”

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