The Christian development charity Tearfund signed a non-disclosure agreement with a former employee on the same day it pledged to stop using such agreements and offered to cancel all existing ones, Third Sector has learned.
The charity also refused to release the former employee from the new NDA, despite his repeated requests.
On 27 April, Tearfund said it would “no longer use confidentiality clauses (sometimes referred to as non-disclosure agreements or NDAs) in settlement agreements” and would “mutually lift existing confidentiality clauses from anyone who has signed one with us as part of a settlement agreement should they wish us to”.
It said these changes would take place with immediate effect.
But documents seen by Third Sector reveal that on the same day the organisation signed an NDA with Ben Nicholson, who had previously worked for Tearfund as a country representative.
The agreement was a revised version of a previous NDA.
Nicholson told Third Sector: “My issue is that even if Tearfund felt there was a justification to ask me to sign an NDA, why say in public you’re not going to use them and then on the same day use them?
“If you think there is a case for them, don’t make any announcement that you won’t use them. You can’t play it both ways.”
The Tearfund statement said it would only use NDAs if the person signing them explicitly wanted one, but Nicholson said he had asked to be released.
Nicholson signed the initial NDA in June 2018 when he left the organisation after whistleblowing about the handling of a safeguarding incident, and said he felt he “had no choice”.
His initial NDA prevented him from speaking about his experiences as a whistleblower, the safeguarding incident, bullying within Tearfund, or his departure from the organisation.
The revised version was much narrower in scope, and prohibited Nicholson from sharing certain details that could identify the person involved in the safeguarding incident.
Nicholson said he had no intention of sharing the identity of the person and had not done so, but he believed that a number of other people in Tearfund also knew who the person was but had not been made to sign an NDA.
A spokeswoman for Tearfund said Nicholson and the charity had “mutually released each other from a confidentiality clause surrounding his departure from the organisation”.
She said: “There are a few very specific pieces of information which must remain confidential, with the sole purpose of protecting the privacy, anonymity and wellbeing of the survivor of a safeguarding incident.
“Both Tearfund and Mr Nicholson have signed an agreement committing to do that.”