Insights Non-Disclosure Agreements: Government announces legislation to be introduced to crack down on misuse

The Government has announced that legislation will be introduced to “crack down on the misuse of non-disclosure agreements” (“NDAs”). It follows a consultation into how to improve the regulation of NDAs which was launched in 2019 and to which the Government issued its response later that year.

The proposed legislation takes up one of the Government’s responses by “clarifying that NDAs cannot be legally enforced if that prevents victims from reporting a crime”. Furthermore, it will ensure that information relating to criminal conduct that is the subject of an NDA can be disclosed to the police, legal advisors, and medical professionals without fear of legal action. The Government announcement confirms that such disclosures will be permitted so long as they are “relevant to criminal conduct” and are made “for the purposes of reporting a crime or accessing support or advice”. It also makes clear that “other parts of confidentiality agreements including provisions in respect of commercially sensitive information, financial agreements and any other obligations unrelated to the disclosures that we are permitting will retain their legal effects.”

Commenting on the announcement, the Lord Chancellor said that “We are bringing an end to the murky world of non-disclosure agreements which are too often used to sweep criminality under the carpet and prevent victims from accessing the advice and support they need.  Our changes will clarify in law once and for all that these gagging orders cannot be legally enforced against victims to prevent justice from being delivered and their voices being heard”.

The legislation will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows” and more information can be found here.