Mums protest use of NDAs to silence discrimination claims

Pregnant Then Screwed and Can’t Buy My Silence are taking part in a protest today against the use of non-disclosure agreements to silence mums who have faced discrimination and ill treatment at work.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act photo

 

Dozens of women will stand gagged on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice in London from midday today to protest against the misuse of NDAs and confidentiality clauses against mothers in the UK.

The protest, led by Pregnant Then Screwed and Can’t Buy My Silence, is backed by new research from Pregnant Then Screwed, in partnership with Women In Data®, that estimates that 435, 293 mothers in the UK (3.47%) have been gagged by a non-disclosure agreement or NDA following allegations of discrimination, bullying and harassment at work.

Three-quarters (78%) of mothers who have signed one report mental health deterioration as a result.

Just one quarter (26.6%) of mothers who have signed an NDA would sign again if given an option, and less than a third (30%) believe they were fairly compensated after their ordeal.

One mother who signed an NDA following maternity discrimination said: “I was asked to sign an NDA to cover maternity discrimination and a second time to cover harassment. The process of negotiating the NDA made me feel suicidal.  The NDA was presented to me at the end of a gruelling process that had to end otherwise I would have had to sell my home. The lasting impact of the NDA was ruinous.”

Another mother stated: “Signing an NDA with a large UK employer was the most isolating and difficult experience I’ve ever been through. It affects me to this day. At the time of signing, I was so distraught and so desperate to find a way out of a difficult situation that I’d no real understanding of how much the agreement itself would affect my confidence long term or how it would sever my contact with a community of colleagues I’d known for years.”

Whilst many argue that without NDAs, women wouldn’t get a swift and fair resolution to the discrimination they face, Pregnant Then Screwed says legislation implemented in many US states suggests otherwise. A recent analysis of US Employment Equality Opportunity Commission [EEOC] data compared the settlement rate for sexual harassment claims brought to the EEOC in 2017 – when there was no NDA legislation anywhere in the US – with 2022 – by which time legislation in nine states banned NDAs for sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct and discrimination The data shows that there was a 9% rise in settlements, suggesting that the use of NDAs might be stopping victims from coming forward.

Lauren Fabianski, Head of Campaigns & Communications for Pregnant Then Screwed, says: “NDAs have become a toxic tool that allows unscrupulous employers to quite literally pay victims to keep their mouths shut about horrific injustices. They mask discrimination, harassment and criminal abuse from the public and even the employees’ friends and family. This immoral practice undermines laws meant to protect workers and creates a culture of secrecy where perpetrators face no consequences.”

Pregnant Then Screwed and Can’t Buy My Silence have launched a new petition demanding the government make NDAs unenforceable in cases related to discrimination, harassment or other unlawful behaviours.

Victims and Safeguarding Minister, Laura Farris recently announced plans to crack down on the misuse of NDAs through proposed changes to the law which aim to clarify that NDAs cannot be legally enforced if they prevent victims from reporting a crime. No timetable was set and the Treasury now says it is already taking action on the issue and that there are already limitations on the use of NDAs in the workplace.

 



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