New workplace harassment helpline launched by Emma Watson

Rights of Women have launched a new helpline for women who have experienced sexual harassment at work. Legal advice will be provided on a number of issues, including identifying sexual harassment, how to bring a claim against your employer, Employment Tribunal procedures, and non-disclosure agreements (“NDAs”).

The helpline was inspired by the #MeToo movement, and is funded by TIME’S UP UK’s Justice and Equality Fund. Emma Watson, who launched the helpline, said it was “completely staggering” that the free helpline for women in England and Wales was the only service of its type. “Understanding what your rights are, how you can assert them and the choices you have if you’ve experienced harassment is such a vital part of creating safe workplaces for everyone, and this advice line is such a huge development in ensuring that all women are supported, wherever we work.“ [1]

Suzanne McKie QC, Founder of Farore Law and member of Rights of Women’s Advisory Panel, will be taking calls on the helpline next week.

The helpline number is 020 7490 0152, and will be open on Mondays (6pm - 8pm) and Tuesdays (5pm - 7pm), excluding bank holidays. More opening times are expected in due course.

[1] The Guardian

Government publishes its response to NDA consultation

The Government’s response to the consultation on the misuse of confidentiality clauses (also known as “non-disclosure agreements” or “NDAs”) was published yesterday morning. The purpose of the consultation (available here) was to explore how NDAs and their legal framework operate in practice, and to assess what changes are required to ensure that individuals are appropriately protected from their misuse.

Farore Law was present at the roundtable discussion with the Government Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) to provide its input on the legal issues.

In response, the Government intends to take a number of actions, including:

  • legislating so that NDAs cannot prevent disclosures to the police, regulated health and care professionals and legal professionals;

  • legislating so that limitations in NDAs are clearly set out in employment contracts and settlement agreements;

  • producing guidance for solicitors and legal professionals responsible for drafting settlement agreements;

  • legislating to enhance the independent legal advice received by individuals signing NDAs; and

  • employing enforcement measures for NDAs that do not comply with legal requirements in written statements of employment particulars and settlement agreements.

The full response is available to view here.

Women and Equalities Committee publishes report on the use of NDAs in discrimination cases

The Women and Equalities Committee published their report on ‘The use of non-disclosure agreements in discrimination cases’ earlier this week. Farore Law submitted oral and written evidence to the Committee’s inquiry last year, and we are glad to see that our evidence was cited by the Committee in its report.

Amongst other things, the Committee concluded that:

"There is a clear need for action to ensure that confidentiality, non-derogatory and other clauses cannot be drafted in such a way that they lack clarity about what the effect of the clauses are and, importantly, about the types of disclosure that they cannot prevent.”

The report is available to view on the website here.

Suzanne McKie QC quoted in The Times

Suzanne McKie QC was quoted in The Times regarding #MeToo, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and how lawyers address complaints of sexual harassment. Amongst other actions, the Solicitors' Regulation Authority (SRA) has opened a file into the behaviour of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (a top-tier law firm) towards one of Farore Law's clients.

Suzanne confirmed that it is not common for the SRA to be involved in such claims: "I would expect this to increase as people become more aware of what the SRA can do, and what amounts to professional misconduct. The SRA is also looking at strengthening the duties of solicitors to ensure that those duties are overridingly in favour of justice, so that those duties trump your duty to your client."

Click here to access the article.

NDAs and confidentiality agreements: Parliamentary inquiry launched

MPs have launched an inquiry into workplace harassment, with particular regard to the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the context of sexual harassment.

Although this may be welcome, we have to be very clear about what benefits there are to claimants in the use of confidentiality agreements as part of a settlement following harassment and/or termination of employment following their being harassed. We should be slow to outlaw these, as claimants/victims should be given a choice as to what is right for them in order to move on and draw a line under the trauma. No victim should be forcibly prevented (directly or indirectly) from entering into a settlement agreement with the alleged perpetrator (or those liable for the perpetrator's actions). No victim should be criticised for refusing or not feeling able to litigate on the matter or report the matter to the police - to criticise them in this way places blame or responsibility (yet again) on the victim.

See here for the relevant BBC article.