Monday, 30 June 2008

Protect your secrets carefully

Can company bosses prevent a member of staff from taking “confidential” information with them when they resign? Not necessarily, says John Mehtam, our Employment Law Specialist.

“Information which you may regard as being classified, is often in the public domain, and if that turns out to be the case, there may be nothing you can do to stop former members of staff taking the information with them.

“As a general rule, in order for something to be confidential and owned exclusively by the company, it either has to be a trade secret, or something that you’ve been given in confidence which isn’t public knowledge.

“But even this isn’t a cast-iron guarantee, since the courts have recognised that all employees accumulate a certain amount of knowledge about the company which they’re entitled to take with them and use in their next job.”

John said there were a number of steps which companies could take to protect themselves.

“If you want something to remain confidential, make sure it’s clearly marked as such, and that its importance is flagged up with any employee who has access to it. Also, make sure that the contracts of senior employees and directors include restrictive covenants spelling out the position regarding the use of sensitive data.”