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New Legal Measures to Protect Workers from Misuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements

Non-disclosure agreements are fast becoming methods employers make use of when they plan on silencing whistleblowers or when paying off employees for unfair dismissal. Due to the increase in abuse and misuse of NDA, new laws are being implemented in order to protect employees from the misuse of NDAs.

Among the new legal measures being taken, some include;

  • Non-disclosure agreements can in no way prevent anyone from reporting to the police acts of discrimination or harassments. This ensures that the power held by various employers which is being used to silence workers is stripped away from them. Many workers live in fear of the possible fine they might have to pay should they break the confidentiality agreement. Employees are afraid of coming forward about anything pertaining to the company or business even in cases of illegal dealings or actions of the company for fear that the court may to throw out a provision where the damages or penalties for violating the confidentiality agreement are much greater than the harm caused to the company. To avoid being in such a disadvantageous situation, many employees would rather keep mute and play ignorant- turning a blind eye to the many atrocities carried out by the company.
  • Employees that agree to non-disclosure agreements are made aware of what the NDA encompasses and the limits of the NDA. Many employees have fallen victim to signing a NDA at the point of accepting a new job. NDAs vary depending on the workplace and request different requirements from the worker; as such, care should be taken when signing any NDA especially one that is a requirement before employment. This new legal measure ensures that workers are not kept in the dark about the potential trap they might unknowingly be signing themselves into and are a step ahead of potential organisations who use NDAs to hide malpractice.
  • A clear written description of rights must be implemented before anything is signed including confidentiality clauses in employment contracts, or within a settlement agreement. This lays out the rights of a worker or employer. This not only informs the worker of their rights, but also protects the worker should they be faced with malpractice the NDA serves to mask.
  • It has become mandatory for employers to make sure that employees are made aware of what it is they are signing and what are the true implications. The Government’s tougher legal measures enusre that employers will now not be able to use confidentiality agreements to prevent workers from reporting crimes, harassment or discrimination to the police. The aim is to clamp down on abuse, by employers who have used non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and confidentiality clauses to coerce whistleblowers, hide harassment and discrimination incidents.

Prime Minister Theresa May described the legal measures as a “clear message” that changes in the law were needed to support under-pressure workers, following the reports on retail guru Sir Philip Green’s misuse of the legal tool.

UK Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst suggested the changes could also help prevent employees from being lured into signing gagging clauses they were unaware of and help clarify their rights. By giving workers protection for the first time from the threat of these agreements potentially being used to “silence victims” is reduced.

The new proposals 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. They require a clear, written description of rights before anything is signed in confidentiality clauses in employment contracts or within a settlement agreement.

It also extends the law so any worker who signs up to a settlement agreement receives independent advice from an employment lawyer which must cover the limits of any confidentiality clauses, so they are fully informed of the necessary facts.

The Telegraph has reported that five of retail magnet’s Sir Philip Green’s employees signed NDAs to hush their complaints, with one being paid more than £1 million.

Sir Philip, 66, to date has denied his behaviour was criminal or amounted to gross misconduct.

Prime Minister, Mrs May said: “Sexual harassment is against the law and discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated – in the home, the workplace or in public. “Over the past couple of years, we have seen brave individuals breaking silence on such behaviour, but too many are still facing the unethical misuse of non-disclosure agreements by their employers. We’re sending a clear message that a change in the law is needed to ensure workers are able to come forward, be aware of their rights and receive the advice they need before signing up to them.”

Ms Tolhurst said: “Many businesses use Non-Disclosure Agreements and other confidentiality agreements for legitimate business reasons, such as to protect confidential information.

“What is completely unacceptable is the misuse of these agreements to silence victims, and there is increasing evidence that this is becoming more widespread.”

Women and Equalities Minister, Penny Mordaunt asserted that by seeking to protect workplace rights, the UK Government, good employers and the public are demonstrating they will not accept the “disgusting behaviour” involved in the sexual harassment and bullying of women at work.

If you need advice about settlement agreements or non disclosure agreements our no win no fee Employment Law Solicitors can assist with all types of claims. Naturally, we pride ourselves on providing the best possible service to the highest standards, we offer free employment law advice on all problems. Call us on 08007566605 or02039234777

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