MPs are leading calls for a ban on non-disclosure agreements (NDA) which are being used by employers to silence employees who made allegations of unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
NDAs were originally created to stop members of staff from sharing secrets about the organisation if they changed jobs. However, it has been claimed that they are instead being used to cover up criminal behaviour and other wrongdoings.
The Women and Equalities Committee are now calling for the Government to clarify the rules on NDAs, whistleblowing and also address the financial issues employees are facing when trying to take cases to courts.
They are urging the government to ensure NDAs cannot prevent legitimate discussion of allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment and want their use of covering up allegations of unlawful discrimination to be stopped.
Maria Miller, who chairs the committee, said: “It is particularly worrying that secrecy about allegations of unlawful discrimination is being traded for things that employers should be providing as a matter of course, such as references and remedial action to tackle discrimination.
“After signing an NDA, many individuals find it difficult to work in the same sector again. Some suffer emotional and psychological damage as a result of their experiences, which can affect their ability to work and move on. There is also the financial penalty of losing a job and bringing a case against an employer.
“Organisations have a duty of care to provide a safe place of work for their staff and that includes protection from unlawful discrimination.”
The committee has also called on the government to begin a programme to raise awareness among employers and employees about how to handle grievances fairly and effectively, including signposting to relevant guidance and support and investigating all discrimination and harassment complaints regardless of whether a settlement is reached.