It’s standard practice for employers to attempt to protect and retain their client base after an employee stops working for them. Restrictive covenants in employment contracts usually attempt to prevent former employees from poaching or soliciting customers
with whom they have had contact and this established practice makes good business sense.
However, with social media becoming an effective advertising and networking tool for many businesses, there’s an ever growing need to review and protect methods of business development. One social media site in particular, LinkedIn, was developed specifically
to help business networking online.
LinkedIn, as many will know, describes itself as ‘a business-oriented social networking service’. Many innovative professionals have turned to the site with a view to exploiting opportunities from the 300 million (plus) registered members.
With so many potential opportunities waiting to be realised, LinkedIn is fast becoming an essential tool in an employer’s locker. Some businesses, such as recruiters, even dedicate resources to recruiting directly from LinkedIn.
However, many employers have so far failed to protect these new business development methods and often employers haven’t been so forward-thinking as to protect the contacts which their employees make in their course of employment by use of LinkedIn. It’s therefore
good practice for employers to regularly review the aims, needs and objectives of restrictive covenants in their employees’ employment contracts, so as to make sure that they provide the protection which the employer’s business needs.
The case of Hays Specialist Recruitment (Holdings) Ltd & Anor v Ions & Anor relates to this kind of situation. Mr Ions was an employee of Hays, but after leaving Hays he went to work for Exclusive Human Resources Limited (“EHR”). Hays claimed Mr Ions breached
his restrictive covenants by copying and then using information concerning Hays’ clients during the first six months of his employment with EHR.
The resulting court case involved an application for specific disclosure of the contacts which Mr Ions had obtained (including via LinkedIn) whilst working for Hays. The application for specific disclosure was granted, but the court case might have been avoided
completely if Hays had included restrictive covenants in Mr Ions’ employment contract explicitly referring to contacts obtained via LinkedIn.
The lesson to be learnt is that while it’s excellent for a business to continually develop methods of obtaining new work, the effort invested in doing so must not be wasted. New methods of business development need to be properly protected by properly drafted
For more information about any of the above or for practical commercial advice on this or any other aspect of employment law, please contact
Nigel Crebbin of the Berg Employment Team on 0161 833 9211 or email him at
Follow us on Twitter: @Berg_HR
(The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should
be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.)