Victoria to curb non-disclosure agreements

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Non-disclosure agreements will be restricted in Victoria under proposed reforms following a wide-ranging workplace sexual harassment review.

The Victorian government will start work on drafting new laws to restrict NDAs for cases of workplace sexual harassment.

The binding agreements are often used to silence victim-survivors, protect employers' reputations, avoid full liability and hide serial offending, Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt said when announcing the move on Monday.

Victim-survivors, unions, businesses and legal experts will be consulted on the best model and scope for the restrictions before legislation is introduced to state parliament.

The proposal is an Australian first but the government could draw on international models such as those in Ireland, the United Kingdom and United States, Ms Stitt said.

There is no set timeline for the NDA reforms' implementation.

"I'm loath to put a deadline on this kind of work because I am very serious about making sure that we do that detailed analysis of what legislative change could look like, and that there are no unintended consequences as a result of the model," she told reporters.

The move was one of 26 recommendations made by a ministerial taskforce on workplace sexual harassment, co-chaired by parliamentary secretary Bronwyn Halfpenny and workplace injury lawyer Liberty Sanger.

"We've seen many examples of victims being afraid to speak out afterwards for fear of either breaching the NDA and/or the potential for defamation proceedings," Ms Sanger said.

The Victorian government released its response to the taskforce's recommendations on Monday, accepting 21 in full, part or principal.

Among them was to treat sexual harassment as an occupational health and safety issue and for WorkSafe to take a lead role against it.

The Andrews government noted a recommendation to enact legislative amendments to allow workers and unions to initiate civil proceedings for breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

It said another four require further consideration, including mandatory workplace sexual harassment notifications as part of the second phase of de-identified employer data reporting to WorkSafe.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said he would support any reforms, as long as they helped victims and are victim-led.

"In certain circumstances, winding back an NDA may not be the best for the victim. We don't want to discourage a victim from coming forward," he said.

The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) said it supports concerted action to address workplace sexual harassment and welcomes the opportunity to contribute to proposed legislative reform.

"There should be a nationally harmonised approach to this," LIV president Tania Wolff said.

"We would support a considered and measured approach to a reconsideration of the use of NDAs in settling workplace complaints. It is not a one size fits all issue."

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