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End silencing women at work now

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Non-Disclosure Agreements, NDA, campaign, petition, victims, null and void, sexual harassment,There are serious concerns around the use of NDAs to silence victims of sexual harassment.

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have encourage more and more people come forward, relating their shocking experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

But perpetrators are exploiting the law to silence victims of abuse and harassment.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are legally binding contracts that require an individual or company to withhold confidential information from being released to any third party or becoming public.

They are also being used as a weapon by the rich and powerful to silence whistleblowers and cover up wrongdoing.

Wealthy businessman and Topshop owner Philip Green for example used an NDA to stop allegations of racism and sexual harassment being made public –  and a court injunction to prevent The Telegraph newspaper from publishing an expose into allegations about him.

Regularly, all across the country, victims of offences like sexual assault, bullying and racism are being forced to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, preventing them from speaking out about what has happened to them and warning other people.

These NDAs are often incorporated into employment contracts, preventing employees from speaking out later when something does go wrong in the workplace.

According to a BBC survey, 1 in 2 female employees have been victims of sexual harassment, a truly staggering number when you also consider that only 37 per cent reported their harassment.

While NDAs are null and void if they are used to cover up any criminal offence, they are still enforceable where the victim has suffered sexual harassment at work.

This is manifestly unfair.

Campaigners working on this with have personal experience of being forced into silence when trying to highlight experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

They want change.

The public have a right to know if there is culture of wrongdoing. We must offer better protection for employees and victims of sexual harassment and abuse.

Campaigners are now asking that the law be reformed to stop employers from using NDAs to silence victims of sexual harassment.

Theresa May’s government held a consultation on more rules for “ethical” use of NDAs.

While some viewed this as positive news, we know that consultations can be a lengthy and costly process, and often shelved when there is a change in government.

The Women and Equalities Committee launched their inquiry into Non-Disclosure Agreements to examine wider issues on 13 November 2018, after its inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace recommended that the government should clean up the use of NDAs in sexual harassment cases

The Committee’s new inquiry was set up to look at the wider use of NDAs in cases where any form of harassment or other discrimination is alleged.

This might include, for example, pregnancy or maternity discrimination or racist abuse.

The Committee then invited written submissions to the inquiry.

Questions which the inquiry focussed on included:

Are there particular types of harassment or discrimination for which NDAs are more likely to be used?

Should the use of NDAs be banned or restricted in harassment and discrimination cases? What impact would this have on the way cases are handled?

What safeguards are needed to prevent misuse?

What is the role of internal grievance procedures? What obligations are there on employers to ensure these are fair and thorough?

How easy is it for employees and employers to access good quality legal advice on NDAs? How can quality and independence of legal advice for employees negotiating severance agreements be assured when advice is paid for by the employer?

Do some employers use NDAs repeatedly to deal with cases involving a single harasser? If so, is appropriate action being taken to deal with the behaviour?

What should the role of boards and directors be? And should employers be obliged to disclose numbers and types of NDAs?

The deadline for written submissions was extended to 31 January 2019

And remarking on the issue, Women and Equalities Committee Chair Maria Miller said: “Use of NDAs in sexual harassment cases is only part of the picture. This new inquiry will focus on their wider use in other cases involving other forms of harassment or discrimination.”

All well and good.

But, the campaigner say, they know that there are serious concerns around the use of NDAs to silence victims of sexual harassment and we don’t need a government-led consultation to prove this.

And they are calling on Theresa May and the current government to fast-track law reform so that victims of sexual harassment are exempt from signing NDAs.

They are also asking that existing NDAs that prevent victims from speaking out are declared null and void.

Please help us all ensure that government takes action on NDAs NOW by signing this petition.

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