COMMONS

Law and guidance on non-disclosure agreements examined

25 April 2018

The Women and Equalities Committee continues its inquiry into Sexual harassment in the workplace. The Committee is examining the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and the legal advice given to those signing them.

On 28 March, Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant, Zelda Perkins, spoke to the Committee about the non-disclosure agreement she was asked to sign.

The law firms that drew up the agreement, and others, also gave evidence.

What are non-disclosure agreements?

‘Non-disclosure agreement’ is increasingly used as a catch-all term for agreements that include confidentiality clauses – sometimes referred to as gagging clauses.

They are routinely used in employment contracts for a range of purposes including, for example, protecting intellectual property, trade secrets or other confidential information such as customer details.

They are also commonly used in agreements that are reached between employers and employees when employment is terminated (known as settlement agreements).
 
However, there has been criticism of their use in sexual harassment cases, with concerns that they may be used to conceal improper, discriminatory or even illegal behaviour or to impede reporting of such behaviour to the proper authorities.

What the Committee will examine

This session is expected to focus on:

  • The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s regulation and guidance of solicitors on the use of NDAs
  • The law and guidance relating to the use of NDAs
  • Differences in requirements for legal advice to be given for different types of agreement
  • Suggestions for preventing the abuse of NDAs

Witnesses

Wednesday 25 April 2018, Committee room 6, Palace of Westminster
 
At 09.50am

  • Paul Philip, Chief Executive, Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • Andrew Taggart, Partner, Employment, Pensions and Incentives Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
  • Francesca West, Chief Executive and Company Secretary, Public Concern at Work

At approximately 10.40am

  • Susan Clews, Chief Operating Officer, Acas
  • Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary for Transport, Equalities, Food & Agriculture, Unite
  • Marion Scovell, Head of Legal, Prospect

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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