Pay

Freedom of information request response - 05702

FOI request

FOI ID number
05702
Regarding
Non-disclosure agreements
Request

For the purposes of this request, please use the definition of a "non-disclosure agreement" (NDA) outlined by the Women and Equalities Committee in its report on Sexual harassment in the workplace. The relevant sections are on pages 37 and 38 and I have placed the relevant text in italics at the bottom of this email. To be clear, my request is not limited to NDAs used in cases where there are allegations of sexual harassment. I am simply using the definition contained in this report.

Please could you provide the following information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

  • How many non-disclosure agreements does the council currently have in place with current or former members of staff:
    1. As part of employment contracts?
    2. As part of settlement agreements?
  • For each of the following calendar years, please tell me how many settlement agreements the council entered into with current or former members of staff that involved a non-disclosure agreement and how much money the council paid out as a result of those settlements:
  1. 2014
  2. 2015
  3. 2016
  4. 2017
  5. 2018

Definition from the Women and Equalities Committee report:

What is an NDA?

  1. A non-disclosure agreement is a contract that contains clauses that restrict what a signatory can say, or who they can tell, about something. These clauses are also known as confidentiality or gagging clauses. Witnesses giving evidence to our inquiry used the term NDA in different ways. We have used it to refer to two different types of agreement that typically contain confidentiality provisions: employment contracts and settlement agreements.

NDAs in employment contracts

  1. Employers may ask individuals to sign an NDA before they begin working for them. As the Government Equalities Office (GEO) sets out, NDAs can form a legitimate part of an employment contract and are important to protect trade secrets that could otherwise undermine a company's competitiveness in the marketplace. We acknowledge that

NDAs have a legitimate use in employment contracts, but we are also concerned that they are being used unethically by some employers to prevent damaging stories about sexual harassment from surfacing. Christine Payne of Equity raised her concerns that non-disclosure agreements were being used more broadly in the entertainment sector to say that individuals should not say anything about anything that goes on either in the casting process or in the workplace. She told us that such an agreement implied that the individual would not be able to say anything about inappropriate behaviour in a casting session or on set, and that this was creating a culture of fear and intimidation for Equity members.

NDA use in settlement agreements

  1. Settlement agreements are described by the GEO as providing a way to resolve workplace disputes or end a working relationship without the need to go through the cost and stress (for both parties) of an Employment Tribunal hearing. Employment lawyers agreed that NDAs were important to enable victims of sexual harassment to get a settlement from their employer, particularly if the case could not be resolved through the employer's grievance procedure.164 Indeed, Gareth Brahams, the then Chair of the Employment Lawyers Association, told us that in many cases no settlement would be agreed without a non-disclosure agreement.165 Again, we acknowledge that there is a place for NDAs in settlement agreements; there may be times when a victim makes the judgement that signing an NDA is genuinely in their own best interests, perhaps because it provides a route to resolution that they feel would entail less trauma than going to court, or because they value the guarantee of privacy. However, we have grave concerns about their unethical use.

Our response

Response
  • How many non-disclosure agreements does the council currently have in place with current or former members of staff:
    1. As part of employment contracts? 0
    2. As part of settlement agreements? 1
  • For each of the following calendar years, please tell me how many settlement agreements the council entered into with current or former members of staff that involved a non-disclosure agreement and how much money the council paid out as a result of those settlements:
    1. 2014 0
    2. 2015 0
    3. 2016 1 - no money paid out as a result of the settlement
    4. 2017 0
    5. 2018 0
Response date
28 November 2018