Government proposes more workplace protection for employees

The government is considering new measures to prevent unscrupulous employers from intimidating staff who expose wrongdoing in the workplace.

It means it could become unlawful to withhold references for an employee who wishes to leave a company following a dispute.

Andrea Leadsom employment rights

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, pictured above, said: “The overwhelming majority of businesses comply with the law, treating their employees with respect and fairness. But we cannot tolerate the small minority that use nasty tactics like non-disclosure agreements and withholding references to pressure employees into silence, often in cases of serious wrongdoing.

“These proposals ensure individuals are protected, striking a fair balance between the interests of employers and workers.”

The measures form part of the government’s response to an inquiry on non-disclosure agreements  conducted by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC).

Many of the recommendations made by the Committee were addressed in a raft of proposals announced in July to crack down on misuse of non-disclosure agreements, including legislation ensuring that confidentiality clauses cannot prevent individuals disclosing to the police, regulated health and care professionals or legal professionals.

Other recently proposed legislation includes:

  • ensuring employers make clear the limitations of a confidentiality clause, in plain English, within a settlement agreement and in a written statement for an employee, so individuals signing them fully understand what they are signing and their rights
  • extending current legislation so that individuals signing NDAs will get independent legal advice on the limitations of a confidentiality clause – including making clear that information can still be disclosed to police, regulated health and care professionals, or legal professionals regardless of an NDA
  • introducing new enforcement measures to deal with confidentiality clauses that do not comply with legal requirements – for example, an NDA in a settlement agreement that does not follow new legislative requirements will be legally void.

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