Yet again the Church of England finds itself in hot water over its use of NDAs. This time, victims of racist abuse in the church have reported to the BBC’s Panorama programme that not only were they paid to keep silent having reported the sins committed against them, but they were also required to sign an NDA to ensure they kept their side of the bargain. The media circus has already started on this, with the broadsheets wading into the Church on the issue and causing yet more reputational damage. Like most acts in the CofE this was quite possibly benign incompetence by lawyers who weren’t thinking about the reputational risks. NDAs are, after all, a very common feature of settlement agreements. A 2012 inquiry ordered by the then Archbishop Rowan Williams into multiple failures in safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester concluded: “A confidentiality clause should never be included in any agreement reached with a survivor. It is essential that there is complete transparency about any abuse that has occurred.” The same should go for the victims of racial abuse of course, and it might have been better for the Church to have thought about this before slapping NDAs on the victims.
This problem is, of course, much more widespread than the CofE. The very existence of NDAs in the world of entertainment and corporate life has become a shorthand for those with power and influence leaning on the little people to ensure they keep their mouths shut. It doesn’t feel right somehow. Time to get rid of them perhaps?