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UK universities pledge to end the use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases

The agreement has been backed by education ministers, university members and campaigners

By Olivia Mackenzie Smith

Courtesy of andibreit via Pixabay

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are known to be used to silence complaints of sexual harassment in universities as well as other environments.

NDAs create a legal obligation for confidentiality, allowing sensitive information to be shared and kept between the two parties.

The breaking of such an agreement can result in hefty punishments, including prison time.

The NUS has expressed concerns that agreements of this nature can prevent abusers from being brought to justice with the fears of the legal fallout of breaking an NDA could keep victims silent.

A press release by the UK Government declared that “Victims of sexual harassment in universities should no longer be silenced by Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)…”

In the same press release, Michelle Donelan, Minister for Higher and Further Education shared her belief that:

“The use of Non-Disclosure Agreements to buy victims’ silence is a far cry from their proper purpose, for example, to protect trade secrets.

“Several university leaders have signed a new moral contract to end the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements against students and staff, and I call on other vice-chancellors to do the right thing and follow their lead.”

NUS UK praised the move, tweeting:

“This is a huge win for student survivors, activists and campaigners who worked relentlessly to make this a reality. We would not have achieved this without their powerful organising, campaigning and direct action.”

So far, six university vice-chancellors have signed the pledge, including Exeter, University College London and Cambridge.

A University of Aberdeen spokesperson said:

The University of Aberdeen welcomes the UK Government action on the use of non-disclosure agreements as well as the commitment by Universities Scotland which was already in place. The University of Aberdeen does not use confidentiality clauses to prevent victims of harassment from speaking out. It is critical that all our staff and students are safe and supported, and we would consider any such use of confidentiality clauses to be wholly unacceptable.”


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