Gagging clauses: silence is not always golden
Confidentiality clauses (also known as non-disclosure agreements, or ‘gagging’ clauses) are often found in employment contracts for senior executives, or in other commercial contracts.
They are also common in settlement agreements that bring employment to an end if there has been a dispute between you and your employer. They are usually in place to protect legitimate business interests.
You might have heard concerns in the news that confidentiality clauses are being misused to cover up potential crimes such as harassment.
How would you feel about signing a confidentiality clause? What if you had been harassed at work and your employer offered you a settlement on the condition you signed one?
It’s good to know you have got rights in these situations…and also that any lawyers involved have got responsibilities.
Here are our top 4 things to know before you sign a confidentiality clause:
- they can’t be used to try and cover up potential crimes or to stop you or someone else reporting them to the police
- they can’t be used to stop you ‘whistleblowing’ and giving information to public authorities or certain regulators
- if you are asked to sign a settlement agreement at work, your employer should make sure you have access to independent advice from someone like a lawyer or a trade union – for example ACAS can help you negotiate these settlements
- you have the right to be given a copy of the agreement in writing
So – make sure you get advice about what you’re signing first, always ask for a copy, and remember that it can’t stop you speaking up about a criminal act or whistleblowing.