Friday, 19 October 2007

Protect your contacts

If you keep your contacts lists on a company computer, beware as they will belong to your employer.

John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist, said the rules would apply even if some of the contacts were personal, or pre-dated you joining the company.

“The warning follows a High Court case which ruled against a member of staff who brought with him a career’s worth of personal and business contacts when he began a new job.

“He had gradually transferred the list to the company’s computer system, adding to it regularly, and maintained it through their Microsoft Outlook programme.

“But the problems arose when he decided to leave the company to set up a rival business – before he left, he copied the entire contents of his contacts list from the company system onto a memory stick for his own future use.”

John said the company was unhappy with his actions, and decided to seek an injunction to get the information returned. The judge ruled that the list belonged to the company.

“This case has huge implications for employees, and will be an unpopular move with many staff who routinely use work email, BlackBerries and mobile phones for both business and personal contacts.

“Businesses should make sure their staff separate personal and work information, and that the company has a clear email policy in place which is clearly explained to everyone. Separating personal contacts from business contacts will ensure that any problems in the future about rights over the information will be avoided.”