Non-disclosure agreements cannot be used to prevent employees reporting sexual harassment to a colleague or to the police, Acas has set out in new guidance. 

The resolution services body has published advice around so-called ‘gagging clauses’ following reports that employers are misusing them to stifle allegations of harassment or discrimination in the workplace. 

Acas’ guidance explicitly states that NDAs cannot be used to stop someone from reporting discrimination or sexual harassment at work or to the police; to prevent whistleblowing; or to stop someone disclosing a future act of discrimination or harassment. 

It also says that employers should always clearly explain why an NDA is being proposed, should never use NDAs routinely, and should always give the worker reasonable time to seek advice. The agreements should be written in clear, plain English, that is simple to understand and leaves no room for ambiguity, it adds. 

Acas chief executive Susan Clews said: ‘The news has reported on victims coming forward that have alleged appalling abuse by high profile figures who have then tried to use NDAs to silence whistleblowers.

‘NDAs can be used legitimately in some situations but they should not be used routinely or to prevent someone from reporting sexual harassment, discrimination or whistleblowing at work. Our new advice can help employers and their staff understand what NDAs are, how to prevent their misuse and examples where they will not be needed.’