HR Advice From the Experts

As a company launched by an HR Advisor in Manchester we have seen a sharp rise in the number of companies facing attempts to steal their trade secrets in the past five years. This increase has been put down to the growth in technology allowing easier and faster accessing of data via the internet, and a rise in the number of collaborations between companies. The improvement in the job market and the growth in the number of flexible workers are other indications that it is critical for employers to ensure they have adequate protection for their trade secrets and any other confidential information.

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It is important for everyone involved that they have a clear understanding of what confidential information means. There is no legal definition of the term, but most people believe it to cover any information that is proprietary and private to that particular business. There is also no legal definition of the term ‘trade secrets’ either, but again it tends to cover a wide range of commercial and technical information that is peculiar to the particular business in question. It could be a good idea, therefore, to set out what you as an employer mean by ‘confidential information’ and ‘trade secrets’ in your employee’s contracts so that everyone in the business has a clear idea of exactly what is covered.

It is also important to remember that if the employee’s employment is terminated, then their duty of confidence is also terminated too. So, it is probably a good idea to place a stipulation into all employment contracts that their duty is not to reveal any confidential information during the period of their employment AND at any time after their termination. You could also ask employees to sign an employee confidentiality agreement, which is a legal document that we can help you to draft.

On top of ensuring that employees know that they have to keep certain company information confidential, you should also think about a non compete clause as well. Some employees may cause harm to your business after their termination by using their knowledge of parts of your business and your products to solicit your key employees and customers in order to compete unfairly with your business.

We can help you to draft an effective and enforceable post-termination restrictive covenant as part of your contract of employments so that none of your employees will be able to damage your business in this way. It is important to remember that these covenants must go no further than to protect the legitimate business interests of your company, otherwise, they may not stand up in a court of law. There is no one size fits all approach for restrictive covenants and so employers should not have a blanket one placed in every contract of employment, but should tailor them to each individual employee. They should take into account the employee’s position in the business, the length of time which they may be able to damage the business after they leave, and what influence they wield over suppliers, employees and customers.

Restrictive covenants and duty of confidence are tricky items to handle, so don’t worry if your HR department is feeling slightly overwhelmed. Come and talk us, as we have years of HR knowledge, that we are happy to share with you, and we can guide you on the best way forward. Just give us a call on 0161 300 1214 or drop us an email to