Non-disclosure agreements

NDA use 'really not great' for employees

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Envelop marked "confidential"
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More on that story about NDAs.

Non-disclosure agreements are often used by companies that are looking to protect commercially sensitive details such as inventions and ideas.

But they are also used by firms looking to protect their reputation by asking victims of sexual harassment in the workplace to sign "gagging orders" or "hush agreements".

That has led industrial relations service, Acas, to draw up new guidelines about how they are used.

Susan Clews, the chief exec of Acas, told Today that there are "legitimate reasons" for using non-disclosure agreements, like protecting confidential trade information.

"But we've seen increasingly around sexual harassment, for example, that organisations are using confidentaility clauses - if you like - to cover up wrongdoing and to stop people talking about sexual harassment."

"That's really not great for employees," she said, adding that it stops businesses addressing the issues.

Millions spent on non-disclosure agreements in North East

Universities on Teesside have spent more than £3.5m on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the last two years.

Figures obtained by the BBC show Teesside University spent the most out of our region's universities.

It paid out more than £2.8m in 2017 and 2018.

The university says settlement agreements are used as standard practice and the high number offered in recent years is due to various staffing restructures.

Sunderland University spent over £1m on NDAs and says they all related to staff departures but none involved allegations of sexual misconduct or discrimination.

Durham University spent £900,000. It has been approached for comment.

Dozens of academics elsewhere in the country have told that BBC that such agreements are being used to "silence" allegations of bullying, discrimination and sexual misconduct at universities across the UK.

Nearly £90m has been spent by universities on settlements since 2017.