MPs call for ban on non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases

The agreements can be used to cover up abuse, the Treasury Select Committee said after investigating sexism in the UK’s financial sector.

August Graham
Friday 08 March 2024 00:01 GMT
Job listings should be forced to publish wage ranges, the MPs said. (Yui Mok/PA)
Job listings should be forced to publish wage ranges, the MPs said. (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

Ministers have been told they should ban non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases which have been “misused” in the City of London to “cover up” abuse, an influential group of MPs has said.

In its report into sexism in the City of London, the Treasury Select Committee said that there was still a “shocking prevalence” of sexual harassment in the financial sector.

They called for an “end to the era of impunity”, and said that whistleblowers should be given stronger protection in sexual harassment cases.

In order to help women in the sector, it should also be forbidden to ask for salary histories, the MPs said, and the Government should introduce a legal requirement to list salary bands when advertising a job.

At the moment, companies with more than 250 employees have to publish an annual report into their gender pay gaps.

The MPs said that this should be reduced to 50 employees for firms in the financial services sector. Companies who show that they have wide gender pay gaps should then be forced to explain why and publish an action plan.

It comes after a months-long investigation, including evidence heard behind closed doors, into how women were being treated in the City.

“During the inquiry, MPs heard how NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) are being misused in the sector to ‘cover up’ abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination – leaving victims silenced while perpetrators go unpunished,” the committee said.

“The committee is, therefore, calling for a legislative ban on the use of NDAs in harassment cases.”

Committee chair Harriett Baldwin said: “The UK’s financial services sector is the crown jewel of this country’s economy – admired by the international community and always takes pride in being ahead of the curve.

“This well-paid sector will only be able to maintain its competitive advantage if it is able to draw on the widest possible pool of talent.

“That’s why it’s so frustrating that efforts to tackle sexism in the City are moving at a snail’s pace.

“Firms must take responsibility for improving their culture. There have been several high-profile cases which show the existential risk to firms who don’t tackle sexual misconduct. We also know that more diverse organisations perform better, so inaction is not only immoral but bad for growth and business.”

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