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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 47597
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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Hi. I have been working in my job for 3 weeks and want to leave

Customer Question

Hi. I have been working in my job for 3 weeks and want to leave to join a competitor. My contract has a 6 month non compete clause. Is this an enforcable clause?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Ben Jones :

What do you hope to achieve please?

JACUSTOMER-2axew25g- :

I just want some certainty about whether I can leave my job without facing a law suit

Ben Jones :

OK, thank you, please leave this with me - I will look into this for you, get my response ready and get back to you on here. No need to wait around and you will get an email when I have responded, thank you

JACUSTOMER-2axew25g- :

ok thanks

Ben Jones :

Thanks for your patience. Post-termination restrictive covenants are a rather common occurrence in employment relationships. An employer would want to protect their business from a departing employee's knowledge, business connections, influence over remaining staff, etc. However, a covenant that restricts an employee's post-termination activities will be automatically unenforceable for being in restraint of trade, unless the employer can show that it was there to protect a legitimate business interest and did so in a reasonable way.

Legitimate business interests (LBIs) are commonly accepted to include:

  • Goodwill (including supplier and customer connections)
  • Trade secrets and confidential information
  • Stability of the workforce

An employer cannot apply a restrictive covenant just to stop someone competing with their business, but it can seek to stop that person using or damaging their LBIs by using a reasonably drafted covenant. There are a few different types of restrictive covenants that can be applied, these being:

Non-competition covenants prevent an employee from working with a competing business or setting up to work in competition with their ex-employer. Such general restrictions are seen as a restraint of trade and will be difficult to enforce. They will only be seen as reasonable if in the process of working in competition, the employee uses trade secrets or sensitive confidential information belonging to their ex-employer, or their influence over clients is so great that such a restriction is necessary. The length of the restriction and its geographical coverage will also be relevant.

Whilst restrictive covenants are mainly used as a scare tactic by employers, if an employee has acted in breach of a covenant and the employer is intent on pursuing the matter further they can do so. The following are potential outcomes if the employer takes legal action:

  • Obtain an interim injunction preventing the employee from doing certain things that would make them in breach of the restrictive covenant
  • Seek compensation for damages that have directly resulted from the breach of the covenants

As you can see there are no hard and fast rules on restrictive covenants. Whether a specific restriction is enforceable will always depend on the individual circumstances, the interest being protected and whether it has been reasonably drafted. The above principles are what the courts will consider when deciding whether a restriction is going to be legally enforceable. It should give you a good idea of what to look for in your situation and decide what the chances of this being pursued further are.

Ben Jones :

Please let me know if this has answered your original question or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this?

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