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Universities must stop gagging staff who have been victims of sexual assault, minister warns 

Universities must stop gagging staff who have been victims of sexual assault, minister warns 

Universities must stop gagging staff who have been victims of harassment, discrimination and sexual assault, higher education minister is to warn. Chris Skidmore will tell institutions that Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) should only be used in appropriate circumstances – such as protecting valuable research findings when an academic leaves an institution – and not as a

Universities must stop gagging staff who have been victims of harassment, discrimination and sexual assault, higher education minister is to warn.

Chris Skidmore will tell institutions that Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) should only be used in appropriate circumstances – such as protecting valuable research findings when an academic leaves an institution – and not as a way to “cover up” inappropriate behaviour.

His comments come after it emerged that British universities have spent about £87 million on pay-offs with NDAs since 2017.

Mr Skidmore will use a speech on Tuesday at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) to urge universities against using gagging clauses to “silence” victims.  

Universities are “considered the speakers of truth and bastions of free speech”, yet they have reportedly been used NDAs to “suppress” information about allegations leaking out, he is expected to say. 

“It has been claimed that our institutions spent around £87m on non-disclosure agreements since 2017, which raises the question of what exactly is happening behind closed doors in some of our universities,” he will say.

“Non-disclosure agreements exist for many purposes – such as protecting valuable research findings should a staff member change jobs.  

“But in no circumstances should they be used by universities to ‘gag’ staff after experiencing poor behaviour in the workplace, including bullying, discrimination or sexual misconduct.”  

He will say that use of NDAs to “hide” details of unfair practices is an “outrage” and risks bringing the reputation of our world-leading higher education system into disrepute.  

Earlier this year, the Government announced plans to ban employers from drawing up gagging orders that prevent staff reporting allegations of illegal harassment and discrimination to the police.

 

Ministers are to announce a proposed change in the law that could eliminate clauses within confidentiality agreements that strip employees of their pay-offs if they report allegations to the authorities.

Under the Government proposals, ministers would introduce a provision into legislation stipulating for the first time that workplace confidentiality agreements cannot be used to prevent, or appear to discourage, staff from reporting harassment or discrimination to the police.



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