Belfast Telegraph

Ulster University spent £236k on 'gagging' staff

Ulster University’s Belfast campus.
Ulster University’s Belfast campus.

Ulster University spent £226k on settlements to staff that included "gagging clauses" in the past two years, it has been revealed.

The BBC has reported the figure was made up of six separate payments to staff, which included non-disclosure agreements (NDA).

Non-disclosure agreements are designed to stop former staff members sharing confidential information when changing jobs.

Queen's University has declined to disclose the amount it has spent on similar payments to staff.

Universities across the UK spent £90m on the "gagging orders" in the last two years.

The sum is spread across around 4,000 settlements and it is understood some of the payments relate to allegations of bullying, harassment or sexual assault.

Ulster University said that it used NDAs "in appropriate circumstances" to "protect the confidentiality of commercially sensitive information".

"Negotiated settlements of this kind are mutually confidential for both parties and as these are in low numbers in a relatively small local market, provision of amounts may identify individuals or personal information, which would breach our confidentiality obligations," a university spokesperson told the BBC.

While Queen's University refused to reveal how much it had spent on NDAs, they did say that the settlements were commonplace across the education sector.

"Disclosure of information relating to settlements or agreements that have included confidentiality clauses would negatively impact on the university's ability to negotiate settlements and agreements in a robust and responsible manner in the future," a university spokesperson said.

"In addition, due to the small number of agreements, disclosure of the details requested would risk breaching the confidential nature of these agreements as it may be possible to identify the details of individual settlements."

Universities UK (UUK) said that NDAs were used for many purposes including "protecting valuable research".

However it said that they should not be used to stop people from speaking out and such practices "will not be tolerated".

UUK said that it was is working on developing comprehensive new guidance on sexual misconduct that will be published in the autumn.

The guidelines will also cover NDAs, and the group is working with a Government consultation on the issue.

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