Team Moves in the UK: Legal Considerations and Strategies

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What are team moves?

Team moves occur when a group of employees, often with specialised skills or experience, leave one employer to join another, typically a competitor. These moves can have significant implications for both the departing and remaining staff, raising legal and strategic concerns.

Issues Arising From Team Moves

From both a legal and practical standpoint, team moves can give rise to a number of issues and can be more complicated than originally expected. For example, a team move can include small team of employees all at different seniority levels, where the senior employee is likely to have significant influence over more junior members of the team. If the issues cannot be resolved by mediation or negotiation, proceedings can arise which will be long and costly.

The Employment Team at Wildings Solicitors assist businesses with a variety of Employment Law & HR functions. Head to our Retain & Assure Scheme to find out more about how we can help to give employers complete peace of mind.

Legal Considerations for Employers

  • Restrictive Covenants: Non-compete clauses, non-solicitation clauses, and confidentiality agreements may restrict departing employees’ activities and protect your trade secrets and customer relationships. However, enforcing these clauses is subject to legal scrutiny, and courts may deem them unreasonable if they unduly restrict employee mobility.

  • Garden Leave: Garden leave clauses stipulate that employees must remain inactive for a specific period after resignation, preventing them from immediately joining a competitor and potentially aiding their transition to the new role.

  • Data Protection: Employers must ensure compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR when employees leave, especially if they handle sensitive business information.

  • Intellectual Property: Ownership of intellectual property created by employees during their employment belongs to the employer unless otherwise contracted. Clear intellectual property policies and assignment agreements are crucial.

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Strategies for Employers

  • Proactive Talent Management: Invest in employee retention strategies to foster loyalty and engagement,making team moves less appealing.
  • Clear Policies and Procedures: Establish clear company policies on intellectual property, confidentiality, and restrictive covenants to minimise legal risks.
  • Open Communication: Maintain open communication with employees to address concerns and proactively identify potential team move risks.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Consult with employment law specialists to ensure compliance with legal requirements and develop effective strategies for handling team moves.

Legal Considerations for Employees

  • Contractual Obligations: You must fulfil your contractual obligations, including notice periods and non-disclosure of confidential information. Breaching these terms could lead to legal action from your former employer.
  • Restrictive Covenants: Carefully review and understand any restrictive covenants in your contracts to avoid inadvertently breaching them. Legal advice is recommended.
  • Data Protection: You have obligations to protect confidential information even after leaving the company.
  • Intellectual Property: Clarify ownership rights of any intellectual property you create during your employment.
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Strategies for Employees

  • Negotiate Exit Terms: Negotiate a fair exit agreement with your former employer, clarifying non-compete clauses, garden leave periods, and intellectual property ownership.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Seek legal advice from an employment lawyer to understand your rights and obligations,especially regarding restrictive covenants and confidentiality agreements.
  • Maintain Professionalism: Act professionally throughout the transition process, respecting your contractual obligations and maintaining confidentiality.
  • Focus on the New Opportunity: Focus on your new role and responsibilities, contributing positively to your new employer’s success while adhering to ethical and legal guidelines.

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Questions You Might Have (FAQs)

Not necessarily. Restrictive covenants must be reasonable and not overly broad to be enforceable.

Yes, if stipulated in your contract. Breaching garden leave could result in legal action.

Typically, the employer owns it unless otherwise agreed upon.

Do not share confidential information without your former employer’s consent. Seek legal advice if unsure.

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