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Kemi Badenoch, Minister for Women and Equalities, told the Women and Equalities Committee yesterday that she is seeking to clarify in law that NDAs are informal agreements that are not legally binding.
The Government is looking to find a way to clarify that non-disclosure agreements [NDAs] used by some employers to silence people who have been abused at work have no legal basis, Kemi Badenoch, minister for Women and Equalities, told a Parliamentary committee yesterday.
Asked about the exploitative use of NDAs by some employers which often leave the perpetrators of abuse in place while the victim is forced to leave their workplace and silence her from speaking out, Badenoch said that her department had been trying to draft an amendment to the Victim and Prisoners Bill currently before Parliament which would clarify that NDAs are informal agreements and are not legally binding. However, due to the definition of victim in the Bill they couldn’t make it work.
Badenoch said NDAs should not stop people from reporting abuse to the police. She wants to ensure any clarification that is drafted is not thrown out during the review process and is looking for a legislative vehicle and what she called “an elegant solution” to get it written into law.
Badenoch was appearing before the Women and Equalities Committee where she was questioned on a wide range of issues, including when a new minister for disabled people will be appointed, Relationships, Sex and Health Education in schools and a ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people. Badenoch said a new minister would be appointed soon, but it was announced the day after the meeting that the role has been scrapped and that Mims Davies, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, will take responsibility for the portfolio as part of her other work.
Most of the questioning dealt with conversion therapy. Badenoch said legislation had been delayed because defining gender identity is very difficult. Any legislation has to work and be prosecutable, she stated, adding that it is very difficult to define an identity that is more fluid, such as a non-binary identity. “We don’t want parents or clinicians to be criminalised,” she said. She added that the vast majority of conversion practices for LGB people happened years ago, but she said there was evidence of gay people converting to a trans identity. She talked about seeing “an explosion” of referrals to gender identity experts which she said was “almost an epidemic”. She spoke of ‘co-morbidities’ between sexual orientation, autism and other characteristics. “We have to be careful that we are not putting people on a pathway to taking decisions that cannot be reversed,” said Badenoch.
The figures for girls wanting to transition has increased significantly, she added, and this needed to be investigated. She is waiting for the Cass review, an independent review of gender identity, to be published before the Equality Hub starts collecting data on, for instance, girls being pressured to transition.
In a discussion about the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Badenoch added that many of the legal definitions we use now are outdated and confused and said that maybe the Equality Act itself needs to be looked at. Her role, she said, is to protect the most vulnerable groups, including protecting women and children from predatory males who, she stated, may exploit loose definitions of trans rights.
In a heated exchange, Badenoch was asked about the rise in transphobic hate crime and whether the media and politicians’ use of language was inflaming the situation. Words such as “explosion” and ”epidemic” were raised as examples. Badenoch claimed her words were based on evidence and said that it is important for politicians to debate what is happening without people closing down discussions. “We need to be able to have disagreements without someone turning it into ‘I feel unsafe’ or it is triggering. As legislators we should be the grown-ups in the room,” she said.