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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

4.63 Average

30 Reviews

Anonymous

Immediate response to my initial enquiry. Very clear throughout the whole process and thorough and great communication which worked really well during quite a stressful time. Chris Hadrill was extremely helpful and made me feel at ease.

Posted 1 month ago

Nick D

I received a very professional service from Chris. The advice given really helped to leave me comfortable to sign the settlement agreement following my redundancy. Would be happy to recommend your services to others.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Excellent service from initial contact to deliverables.

Posted 2 months ago

Virginia K

Yes, Chris Hadrill answered all my questions and I feel more confident with my current situation

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

Chris Hadrill was referred to me my a friend of mine. I found the service to be efficient, quick and like Chris's direct approach to my work. Well done and thank you Chris!

Posted 2 months ago

Andy W

Very prompt & structured service that helped put my mind at rest at a difficult time

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

I have found Redmans to be very helpful, diligant and thoroughly professional when dealing with them, plus they gone that extra mile for me !

Posted 2 months ago

Anonymous

Thank you to Chris Hadrill at Redmans for his assistance in settling my case. I contacted him at the very last minute and he was happy to help me and managed to get everything done on time and in a very professional manner. I will definitely be happy to work with him again .

Posted 2 months ago

Redman's provided excellent legal employment advice for me during a difficult time in my employment. Chris was my lawyer, super efficient, quick, reliable and clearly very experienced in the matter. Could not ask for a better law firm to deal with your query if you are in need of some help. Would definitely use them again in the future. Highly recommending Chris.

Posted 6 months ago

Steven

Chris Hadrill was very professional and responsive. I would highly recommend him

Posted 6 months ago

Dinah

Very Efficient, with very quick email reply’s. I had a matter that needed resolving within a very short space of time and Redmans Solicitors were great with dealing with my matter quickly.

Posted 6 months ago

Ankar

At Redmans the solicitor that was dealing with me was Chris. He dealt with my situation smoothly with clear guidance and explanation

Posted 6 months ago

Anonymous

Clear, concise advice and guidance delivered by an experienced and very capable solicitor, within the timelines required

Posted 7 months ago

Anonymous

Very efficient service. I never had to wIt for more than a day for a reply to any of my queries and the matter was dealt with swiftly.

Posted 7 months ago

Anonymous

Very timely, thorough and helpful advice. Friendly and considerate of the needs of the client

Posted 7 months ago

Anonymous

Very prompt and attention to detail. Thank you for the service

Posted 7 months ago

Chris

Couldn’t be happier with how Redmans successfully handled our seemingly tricky case. By being clear and detailed every step of the way, with the utmost professionalism and courtesy, they made it an informative and eye-opening process, taking the stress out of the situation and ultimately delivered what you would want from such a service. I fully appreciate everything they have done, and if I am ever in need of such services in the future, they will be the first number I contact. Excellent.

Posted 7 months ago

Anonymous

Excellent work delivered with great quality

Posted 7 months ago

Dominic

Chris Hadrill was a great help both in terms of his advice and his expertise. He explained my options to me clearly and concisely enabling me to quickly make the right decision for me in the circumstance. I would not hesitate to recommend Chris or Redmans to friends or colleagues, and would certainly make Redmans my first port of call should I require a similar service in the future.

Posted 7 months ago

Kurt

Redmans gave excellent advice and helped me understand everything in clear concepts. Thank you!

Posted 7 months ago

Anonymous

Resolved my issues

Posted 7 months ago