Keeping It Confidential

Employees are entrusted with confidential information on a daily basis. This is necessary for them to carry out their duties, and could relate to clients, trade secrets, business planning, pricing formulae or simply general business know-how. Prudent employers will often include confidentiality clauses, return or property clauses and restrictive covenants in employment contracts to protect their businesses once the employment ends. But as a recent case showed, an employee’s duty to not take confidential information arises not just from their contract of employment.

Mr Lloyd worked for Acorn Waste Management as a waste disposal employee. When he left his job to work for a competitor, he e-mailed the confidential details of 957 of the company’s clients to his personal e-mail address without permission. 

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 (the “Act”), it is a criminal offence to obtain or access someone’s personal data without their consent. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which upholds information rights in the public interest, and has specific responsibilities under the Act, found out about Mr Lloyd’s actions and brought a prosecution against him at Telford Magistrates. Mr Lloyd was found guilty of unlawfully obtaining the data and ordered to pay £300 damages, a victim surcharge of £30 and over £400 in costs.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO was quoted as saying:

“Employees need to be aware that documents containing personal data they have produced or worked on belong to their employer and are not theirs to take with them when they leave. Don’t risk a day in court by being ignorant of the law.”

If you have any questions about ways of protecting your business, the enforceability of restrictive covenants or would like more information about the Data Protection Act 1998 please contact Debbie Sadler on 0118 955 9607 or at d.sadler@hewetts.co.uk.

Published on 14/10/2016

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