Britain to ban ‘gagging’ clauses used to silence harassment victims

In Britain, 40 percent of women and 18 percent of men experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. (Reuters)
Updated 22 July 2019

Britain to ban ‘gagging’ clauses used to silence harassment victims

  • Employees who sign NDAs are to be given independent legal advice under the legislation

LONDON: Britain will ban employees from using nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that prevent victims of workplace harassment from speaking to police, lawyers and health care workers about their abuse.

Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), also known as workplace “gagging clauses,” are often used in commercial transactions to protect company information and trade secrets.

But the deals were thrust into the spotlight by the sexual assault scandal that engulfed Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein in 2017. He used NDAs as part of settlements with alleged victims.

The proposed new laws, announced by Britain’s government on Sunday, will ban NDAs that stop people disclosing information to the police, doctors or lawyers.

Employees who sign NDAs are to be given independent legal advice under the legislation.

“As we have seen in the news recently, there are a handful of employers using NDAs to cover up criminal acts in the workplace, including sexual harassment, assault and racist discrimination,” said Kelly Tolhurst, Britain’s minister for small business.

“The new legislation will stamp out misuse, tackle unacceptable workplace cultures (and) protect individuals,” she said in a statement on Sunday.

Confidentiality agreements have come under increased scrutiny in Britain amid the global "Me Too" movement against sexual harassment and assault.

A British parliamentary committee launched an enquiry in November to examine whether NDAs should be banned or restricted, how easily victims can access legal aid, and if companies should be forced to report on types and numbers of NDAs used.

“The use of NDAs is only part of the problem of workplace harassment and discrimination, and employers must step up to protect their employees from this appalling behavior before it happens,” said Rebecca Hilsenrath, head of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In Britain, 40 percent of women and 18 percent of men experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, from catcalls to sexual assault, polling firm ComRes found in 2017.

United Nations agency The International Labour Organization in June adopted a new treaty against violence and harassment in the workplace.


Saudi finance minister reassures public on taxes

Updated 10 December 2019

Saudi finance minister reassures public on taxes

  • Mohammed Al-Jadaan: There will be no more fees and taxes until after the financial, economic and social impacts have been considered carefully
  • The government expects to generate about SR203 billion in taxes this year – more than 20.5 percent higher than the previous year

RIYADH: Saudi finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan pledged that there would be no more taxes or fees introduced in the Kingdom until the social and economic impact of such a move had been fully reviewed.

He was speaking at the 2020 Budget Meeting Sessions, organized by the Ministry of Finance and held in Riyadh on Tuesday, where a number of ministers and senior officials gathered following the publication of the budget on Monday evening.

“There will be no more fees and taxes until after the financial, economic and social impacts have been considered carefully, especially in terms of economic competitiveness,” said Al-Jadaan.

The government expects to generate about SR203 billion in taxes this year – more than 20.5 percent higher than the previous year and more than 10 percent higher than the expected budget for this year. 

Most of that increase has come from taxes on goods and services which rose substantially as a result of the improvement in economic activity over the year.

The reassurances from the minister come as the Saudi budget deficit is estimated to widen to about SR187 billion, next year, or about 6.4 percent of GDP.