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The Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (“SRA”) has recently released new guidance for law firms on how to (not) deal with confidentiality clauses (referred to in the media as “gagging clauses”) if allegations of discrimination, harassment or victimisation are made.

The guidance states that, if allegations of discrimination are made by a lawyer against her law firm and these allegations are upheld, with a settlement agreement (containing confidentiality clauses) agreed, the law firm concerned must, despite the confidentiality obligations, report the allegations of discrimination to the SRA (as the SRA views discrimination as a misconduct that “comprises a serious breach of [a solicitor’s] regulatory obligations”). A failure to report a breach is also likely to be treated a a serious breach of regulatory obligations.

The guidance also states that confidentiality obligations will be viewed as improper if they

  • seek to prevent a third party from: 1) reporting misconduct or a breach of the SRA regulations (or make an equivalent report to another regulatory body); or 2) making a protected disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998; or 3) reporting an offence to a law enforcement agency; or 4) cooperating with a criminal investigation or prosecution;
  • use confidentiality obligation to influence the substance of such a report, disclosure or cooperation; or
  • use existing confidentiality obligations as a means of improperly threatening litigation against, or otherwise improperly seeking to influence, an individual in order to prevent or deter or influence a proper disclosure

The guidance also states that law firms must be particularly careful to ensure that if the employee is not represented there is no abuse of position or unfair advantage taken, and if the agreement is a “settlement agreement” under the Employment Rights Act 1996 then the employee must receive independent legal advice (see here for our analysis of the statutory requirements of settlement agreements)

This new guidance from the SRA comes in the wake of media scrutiny of confidentiality clauses, which was itself prompted by (among other things) the revelations that Harvey Weinstein used confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements to prevent ex-employees of his production company disclosing misconduct on his part.

Chris Hadrill, partner in the employment team at Redmans, commented: “This guidance from the SRA simply reinforces the obligation for solicitors to report misconduct in the workplace and, further, that they not attempt or endeavour to assist an attempt to prevent a third party from reporting regulatory breaches or making protected disclosures.”

About

Redmans Employment Team deal with employment matters for both employers and employees, including drafting employment contracts and policies, advising employers and employees on compromise agreements, handling day-to-day HR issues, advising on restructures, and handling Employment Tribunal cases for both employers and employees Call 020 3397 3603 to speak to one of the members of our employment team or email us on enquiries@redmans.co.uk. Redmans have offices in Richmond, Chiswick, Hammersmith, Fulham, Kingston, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kings Cross and Marylebone (meetings strictly by appointment only).

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Testimonials

4.70 Average

76 Reviews

Margaret

Redmans Solicitors took a lot of the worry away and were very thoughtful and meticulous in their dealings with my case , thank you very mush , great service and a great job

Posted 1 week ago

Mark B

Prompt efficient service. Hourly, and part thereof, billing got a bit stressful at times - as opposed to flat fee - made me think twice about sending an email or making a quick call when I had a query because it would have eaten up minutes from my budget. But happy with the legal service I received overall and would recommend.

Posted 1 week ago

Anonymous

Chris Hadrill has provided a truly wonderful service and was willing to lend his support and expertise at a time when other solicitors, only wanted to discuss their fees! A clear thinking and down to earth professional, Chris can be trusted to listen carefully to your matter, cut through the fog, and advise you on the best (and most realistic) way forward, saving you time, money and heartache. It will be helpful if you first get your ducks in a row in terms of documents / evidence etc. and then contact Chris, (that’s what we did) as this will help your matter to be dealt with faster. The more organised and together you are the more successful you will be. You'll be fine with Chris, I highly recommend him. Good luck!

Posted 2 weeks ago

Richard v

Excellent Service

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

Very happy from service received. Highly recommend

Posted 3 weeks ago

Colin W

Very professional and thorough. Sachs who dealt with the bulk of my case was excellent Thank you. .

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

I was generally impressed with the fast turn around, efficiency, responsiveness, and consideration of circumstances. I needed a couple of areas of advice quickly and with Redmans help was able to get to a conclusion quickly and with minimum stress. They were friendly and professional throughout - I'd use them again.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Anonymous

The guidance and assistance I recently received when using Redman's was fantastic. Caroline & Chris were both very informative and understanding walking me through each step. Thank you.

Posted 1 month ago

Nicola W

Fantastic service, very quick and efficient. Thank you

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Excellent professional service.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

As with All solicitors advice without consequence but understood and communicated my legal position

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

Prompt, professional and excellent service.

Posted 2 months ago

Dominic C

Excellent service, prompt and helpful

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

I found Redman’s to be very efficient and got me the best deal available in the short time scale that was available.

Posted 2 months ago

Victor L

Very professional. Provided excellent advice on my Settlement agreement.

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

Professional from start to finish.

Posted 2 months ago

Oliver W

Excellent service provided by Redmans, will certainly consider using again.

Posted 2 months ago

Melanie H

Very professional and extremely personable service. Thank you very much.

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

I found Chris to be very approachable and easy to speak with about complex matters. He took action quickly and his updates to me, as his client, were prompt. I would recommend Chris and the team at Redmans without hesitation.

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

Good advice

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

Overall happy with the service provided by Chris and Rana.

Posted 2 months ago