Nearly half a million mothers report being 'legally gagged' from talking about workplace discrimination and bullying - here's how you can help

Around 435, 293 women have been affected

Woman signing non-disclosure agreement
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mothers are adversely affected when returning to work after having a baby, with many reporting workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying. Because of these reports, mothers across the UK are united in campaigning against being silenced by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the UK. Those who've signed suggest these documents unfairly protect employers against workplace bullying and harassment claims - here's how you can help.

The Flexible Working Bill has gone some way to facilitate working mums requesting variations to employment conditions, to ease the balance of working and childcare. The rise in working from home has offered more flexibility when juggling the demands of a busy family, while more than half of grandparents are stepping in to keep mothers in work by helping with childcare.

However, mothers returning to the workplace have even more hurdles thrown their way. Dozens have gathered to stand gagged outside the Royal Courts of Justice to raise awareness of being silenced by non-disclosure agreements (NDA) in the UK. This comes after 435,293 mothers are estimated to have been prevented from discussing discrimination, bullying and harassment at work.

Led by Pregnant Then Screwed and Can’t Buy My Silence, with statistics from Women In Data, the campaign highlights the devastation caused to women who've signed NDAs, with 78% of mothers who have signed one reporting a negative impact on their mental health as a result. Less than a third of women believe they were fairly compensated after signing an NDA.

"78% of mothers who have signed a non-disclosure agreement report a negative impact on their mental heath as a result."

One mother who signed an NDA following maternity discrimination told Pregnant Then Screwed: "I was asked to sign an NDA to cover maternity discrimination and a second time to cover harassment. The process of negotiating the NDA made me feel suicidal.  The NDA was presented to me at the end of a gruelling process that had to end otherwise I would have had to sell my home. The lasting impact of the NDA was ruinous."

Lauren Fabianski, Head of Campaigns & Communications for Pregnant Then Screwed, responded. She said "NDAs have become a toxic tool that allows unscrupulous employers to quite literally pay victims to keep their mouths shut about horrific injustices. They mask discrimination, harassment and criminal abuse from the public and even the employees’ friends and family. This immoral practice undermines laws meant to protect workers and creates a culture of secrecy where perpetrators face no consequences."

"NDAs have become a toxic tool that allows unscrupulous employers to quite literally pay victims to keep their mouths shut about horrific injustices."

Lauren Fabianski, Pregnant Then Screwed

If you want to help Pregnant Then Screwed and Can’t Buy My Silence, in the first instance you can sign their petition for Channel 4 News to release previous employees from NDAs. This follows allegations from women previously employed by the broadcaster relating to gender pay discrimination, harassment and bullying. 

The petition was set up by Joeli Brearley, who wrote "In my role leading campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed I hear so often how non disclosure agreements are used by employers to hide wrongdoing. They silence those who encounter severe discrimination and harassment in exchange for a payoff, and they ensure the perpetrator can never be exposed for their actions. Women are often bullied into signing them and feel they have no other option."  

The goal of the organisation is to demand the government make all NDAs unenforceable in cases related to discrimination, harassment, or other unlawful behaviours. 

New data highlights the main disparities when it comes to flexible working requests, with totally unsurprising results. If you've taken time out of work to raise your children, there's a new online service that could help you maximise your state pension pot. If you're wondering what benefits you can claim on maternity leave, we have everything you need to know. 

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.