Government proposes new protections against workplace discrimination

New anti workplace discrimination proposals bolster broader non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) initiative announced in the summer.

The Government is proposing new, improved measures to protect employees facing workplace discrimination it was announced today.

The measures target employers who are currently using scare tactics, such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and withholding references, that pressure employees into silence.

The new proposals include consulting on whether employers should provide references for former employees, cracking down on the rogue use of references as a bargaining chip and ensuring workers are shielded from threats or intimidation. They also examine the misuse of NDAs and workplace discrimination as part of a wider initiative announced in July.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “I am determined to make the UK the best place to work and grow a business – including levelling the playing field between employees and employers. The overwhelming majority of businesses comply with the law, treating their employees with respect and fairness.

“But we cannot tolerate the small minority that use nasty tactics like non-disclosure agreements and withholding references to pressure employees into silence, often in cases of serious wrongdoing. These proposals ensure individuals are protected, striking a fair balance between the interests of employers and workers.”

These proposals form part of the government’s response to an inquiry on non-disclosure agreements conducted by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC).

Hephzi Pemberton, founder and CEO of diversity and inclusion consultancy the Equality Group, is calling for increased action in the public and private sectors to remove workplace discrimination.

She said: “It is my sincere hope that these new protections will pave the way towards an improved, more collaborative future. The select employers who use such scare tactics, in order to unduly keep their employees at their company or, on the flip-side, to drive certain employees out, must be unveiled, because diversity and equal opportunities are no longer buzzwords or optional extras in the workplace and in wider society full stop.

“Study after study has shown that diverse teams improve financial results. This is because more diverse companies can attract, develop and retain a broader talent pool and are able to serve niche markets with a better understanding of their customers as a result. It also allows companies to tailor their approach to every facet of society, improves their image, staff satisfaction and net income.

“However, not every company is fully aware of this, and some still operate with discrimination at their core. It is excellent to see the government actively taking steps to remove this discrimination, and it is incumbent on all leaders in the public and private sectors to do the same.”

These proposals form part of the government’s response to an inquiry on non-disclosure agreements conducted by the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC).

Many of the recommendations made by the Committee were addressed in a raft of proposals announced in July to crack down on misuse of non-disclosure agreements, including legislation ensuring that confidentiality clauses cannot prevent individuals disclosing to the police, regulated health and care professionals or legal professionals.

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