In the first of a series of regular legal top tips columns by the firm, Jones gives some top tips on protecting the business to avoid being left high and dry.
If you haven’t got this in place already, make sure your company has written terms and conditions of employment in place to protect the business interests. Make sure provisions are in place to safeguard your customer base, staff, intellectual property, company property and confidential information.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, so make sure you do everything to ensure that staff do not take them should they decide to leave to set up their own business or move to a competitor. Restrictive covenants can prevent any outgoing director and employee from competing with your business, soliciting or trying to solicitor customers and dealing with those customers after they have left they can even prevent the solicitation of your staff – normally the duration of restrictive covenants is between three to twelve months.
Some believe they aren’t “worth the paper they are written on”, but provided they are drafted and implemented properly there have been many cases where companies have won in enforcing those restrictions against those who have breached them.
Do also continually review agreements regarding changes to staff roles and responsibilities. Someone may enter the business in a junior role but rise up to the ranks of say, sales director and their client base will change. If you don’t do this, you could find the old agreements and those restrictive covenants become questionable and unenforceable in court.
Read up on some more useful legal advice:
- Ten key facts on trademarking your business name
- Modern Slavery Act: Why you need to take action now
- The changes to employment that SMEs don’t know about
Many business owners will stipulate to staff that information within the workplace is confidential. Yet where you could come unstuck is by failing to define to staff what this means and as a result leave this open to different interpretations. Be clear in your agreements that this extends to customer contracts, client details, trade secrets and company documents.
You should also make sure you cover all bases and ensure you have a tight social media and media policy in place, so that only authorised spokespeople can communicate agreed messages and be implicit about the tone of these messages.
Make sure contracts are in place that any staff leaving hands back company property such as laptop computers, phones and other equipment before or on the day of their departure. You want to avoid situations at all costs where you are chasing them after that date for equipment which could hold highly confidential information.
Make sure that the intellectual property of your company is protected and this is stated in agreements signed by all staff when they join the company. This is particularly important if you are working in creative industries and or research and development. Cases have reached the courts because the wording in the agreement was ambiguous.
As many legal folk will tell you, the “the devil’s in the detail”. So don’t cut corners when it comes to looking after your business.
Marc Jones, partner and employment law specialist at Turbervilles Solicitors.
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