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Government to outlaw non-disclosure agreements in sexual assault cases

View profile for Sinead Noonan
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On Sunday 14 October, the Sunday Times reported that the Government will announce plans to outlaw non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in cases where victims have made complaints of “sexual assault of a criminal nature”. Although this definition is wide, covering all manner of sexual assault, there will still be instances of sexual harassment that do not meet that standard, begging the question if it is ever acceptable for employers to silence victims.

It is also expected that businesses will face a new legal duty to protect employees from “groping, lewd jokes and assault”, and that a national database will be set up so victims can provide details of their experiences, allowing the scale of the problem to be exposed. 

NDAs have been front page news since the allegations that Harvey Weinstein had sexually assaulted employees and Hollywood actresses and then silenced them by paying them to sign NDAs. 

Today, the Court of Appeal has granted an injunction preventing the Daily Telegraph from publishing an article detailing the claims that a “leading businessman” had sexual harassed employees. The judges found that the five employees making the claims had been “compromised by settlement agreements”, and received “substantial” pay-outs to stay silent. 

Theresa May has not commented on the news, but it looks like this is the type of case that will be targeted by the government’s plans.

Anyone who has been involved in managing allegations of harassment and abuse internally will know that they require sensitive handling. We are holding an interactive breakfast forum on Wednesday 21 November to discuss the current law, the call for changes, what employers should be doing with their settlement agreements now, and practical tips for managing internal complains of sexual harassment. Please register here. 

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