Current and former employees of the Northern Territory public service will be allowed to give evidence to the current workplace sexual harassment inquiry, after the NT government said it would allow temporary waivers of non-disclosure agreements.
NT public service employees who are victims of sexual harassment are almost always gagged from speaking publicly about their experience if they have signed a confidentiality agreement as part of a settlement payment.
The agreements have meant that current and former employees are legally prevented from giving evidence to the current national inquiry into workplace sexual harassment.
Late last year, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins wrote to 120 chief executives asking them to allow current and former employees to give evidence to the current national sexual harassment inquiry without facing legal consequences for breaching confidentiality agreements.
By giving temporary legal waivers, workers who have signed a non-disclosure agreements would be free to recount their experience for the inquiry, using pseudonyms.
Only a handful of organisations responded to Ms Jenkins’ plea, including law firm Clayton Utz, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, KPMG, Rio Tinto and Telstra.
NT government changes position after being contacted by media
When it comes to public service workers, the New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Queensland governments all agreed to the waivers.
But up until yesterday, the Northern Territory government had not, when it was contacted by ABC News.
Without warning, NT Minister for Public Employment Gerald McCarthy, suddenly announced that it would allow current and former employees to give evidence to the inquiry.
“Minister for Public Employment Gerry McCarthy has confirmed the NT Government will issue a limited waiver of confidentiality obligations in NDAs to current and former Territory public servants can make submissions to the national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces,” his spokesperson told the ABC late yesterday.
Days beforehand, the NT Commissioner for Public Employment said the request was still being considered.
It is not clear if this news was then relayed to the past and present public service employees it will effect.
NT decision welcomed
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan, from Sexual Harassment Claims, welcomed the last minute decision by the Northern Territory government.
“We are never going to fully understand workplace sexual harassment, and then come up with ways to prevent it, if people are not able to share their experiences with this very significant national inquiry,” he said.
“Now that workers are free to tell their stories, it is my hope that at the end of the inquiry, workplaces will have a toolbox and be better equipped to prevent instances of sexual harassment, and better able to handle complaints in a more effective way if they arise.”
Workers have only 2 weeks to make submission
The NT public service workers only have a short time to make a submission to the inquiry.
There is just over two weeks left until the deadline – which has been extended until February 28.
Miles Heffernan is one of our team of specialists at Sexual Harassment Claims who is available to assist people who have experienced sexual harassment or sex discrimination.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or sex discrimination, you may be entitled to compensation.
For help and advice, please call our specialist team at Sexual Harassment Claims on
1300 463 866
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