Speaking out about sexual harassment

UNISON welcomes new guidance on confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements

UNISON has welcomed the new guidance from the  Equality and Human Rights Commission on confidentiality agreements, also known as non-disclosure agreements and more commonly referred to as ‘gagging clauses’.

Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment for all staff.

Safe workplaces are those in which workers feel able to discuss their experiences and expose sexual harassment, and confidentiality agreements should not prevent people from speaking out.

UNISON women’s officer Josie Irwin said: “Our members are often required to sign confidentiality clauses – NHS staff are required to preserve the confidentiality of any information regarding patients.

“However, if a nurse is sexually harassed by a patient, her legal rights under the Equality Act mean she can speak out about the abuse without worrying about disciplinary action for a breach of confidentiality”

“People are often coerced into signing NDAs without realising that this may prevent them from talking about sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment occurs when an individual engages in unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature. It violates a person’s dignity and creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the individual concerned

The new EHRC guidance is designed to help employers understand how and when they can use confidentiality agreements legitimately, and when these agreements will not be enforceable.

The full guidance is available here