Britain to ban ‘gagging’ clauses used to silence harassment victims

In Britain, 40 percent of women and 18 percent of men experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. (Reuters)
Updated 22 July 2019

Britain to ban ‘gagging’ clauses used to silence harassment victims

  • Employees who sign NDAs are to be given independent legal advice under the legislation

LONDON: Britain will ban employees from using nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that prevent victims of workplace harassment from speaking to police, lawyers and health care workers about their abuse.

Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), also known as workplace “gagging clauses,” are often used in commercial transactions to protect company information and trade secrets.

But the deals were thrust into the spotlight by the sexual assault scandal that engulfed Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein in 2017. He used NDAs as part of settlements with alleged victims.

The proposed new laws, announced by Britain’s government on Sunday, will ban NDAs that stop people disclosing information to the police, doctors or lawyers.

Employees who sign NDAs are to be given independent legal advice under the legislation.

“As we have seen in the news recently, there are a handful of employers using NDAs to cover up criminal acts in the workplace, including sexual harassment, assault and racist discrimination,” said Kelly Tolhurst, Britain’s minister for small business.

“The new legislation will stamp out misuse, tackle unacceptable workplace cultures (and) protect individuals,” she said in a statement on Sunday.

Confidentiality agreements have come under increased scrutiny in Britain amid the global "Me Too" movement against sexual harassment and assault.

A British parliamentary committee launched an enquiry in November to examine whether NDAs should be banned or restricted, how easily victims can access legal aid, and if companies should be forced to report on types and numbers of NDAs used.

“The use of NDAs is only part of the problem of workplace harassment and discrimination, and employers must step up to protect their employees from this appalling behavior before it happens,” said Rebecca Hilsenrath, head of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In Britain, 40 percent of women and 18 percent of men experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, from catcalls to sexual assault, polling firm ComRes found in 2017.

United Nations agency The International Labour Organization in June adopted a new treaty against violence and harassment in the workplace.


Boeing reports first annual loss since 1997

Updated 45 min 25 sec ago

Boeing reports first annual loss since 1997

  • The aerospace giant reported a $1.0 billion loss in the fourth-quarter
  • The Beoing’s 737 MAX aircraft has been grounded since March following two fatal crashes

NEW YORK: Boeing reported its first annual loss in more than two decades Wednesday as the lengthy grounding of the 737 MAX dragged down revenues and added to costs.
The aerospace giant reported a $1.0 billion loss in the fourth-quarter and a $636 million loss for all of 2019, the company’s first annual loss since 1997.
The MAX has been grounded since March following two fatal crashes. Boeing estimated additional costs of $9.2 billion connected to the grounding to compensate to customers and account for the impact of lower production levels on expenses.