Theresa May unveils gagging orders overhaul in wake of Sir Philip Green controversy

Posted On: 
4th March 2019

Workers who sign gagging orders with their employers will still be able to report harassment and abuse to police under a change to the law unveiled by Theresa May.

The overhaul comes follows an outcry over retail boss Sir Philip Green's use of non-disclosure agreements.
Credit: 
PA

The Government has vowed to crack down on the "unacceptable" abuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to prevent staff from speaking out about wrongdoing.

Ministers will promise to tweak legislation to ensure that individuals cannot be prevented from reporting crimes, harassment or discrimination to the police - even if they have received substantial payouts from their current or former employers.

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Firms will also be required to give a "clear, written description of rights" before making employees sign up to an NDA, the Department for Business said.

Mrs May said: "Sexual harassment is against the law and discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated – in the home, the workplace or in public.

"Over the past couple of years, we have seen brave individuals breaking silence on such behaviour, but too many are still facing the unethical misuse of non-disclosure agreements by their employers.

"We’re sending a clear message that a change in the law is needed to ensure workers are able to come forward, be aware of their rights and receive the advice they need before signing up to them."

Business minister Kelly Tolhurst added: "Many businesses use non-disclosure agreements and other confidentiality agreements for legitimate business reasons, such as to protect confidential information.

"What is completely unacceptable is the misuse of these agreements to silence victims, and there is increasing evidence that this is becoming more widespread.

The move comes after an outcry over the use of NDAs by retail tycoon Sir Philip Green.

It emerged last year that the businessman had used gagging orders to silence staff who had accused him of sexual and racial harassment.

The Topshop boss - who has strenuously denied any wrongdoing - last month dropped a long-running legal battle with the Daily Telegraph over its reporting of the NDAs.

But Maria Miller, who chairs Parliament's cross-party Women and Equalities Select Committee warned that the new clampdown unveiled by the Prime Minister "may need to go far further" than tightening up existing laws.

The Tory MP told the Daily Telegraph: "It’s not right for this reform to simply restate what’s already the law.

"It would not be going far enough if it simply reiterated the existing law and failed to take account of NDAs used to cover up discrimination."