Protecting company data in the LinkedIn age.

As New Year is now well underway and life returns to normality, plenty of employees will dust off the CV and begin the new job hunt in earnest.

For many, a significant portion of their value in the job market is aligned with how many clients they can bring with them to their new role.

The issue of poaching clients is not new, but with the use of social media becoming more commonplace, particularly as a means of generating business, the risks posed to businesses are evolving.

Most staff now have a LinkedIn account and client facing staff are often encouraged by their employer to actively use this platform as a means of networking with a view to generating more business.

It is generally accepted that a LinkedIn profile belongs to the individual whose name it is in.  However clients’ details gathered in the process of working for the firm held within that account is a grey area and should still be protected, in the same way a company would place restrictions on any other database containing client data.

Whilst there is Case law stating announcements, automatic or otherwise on LinkedIn, regarding a change of job by employee, are not regarded as solicitation, an employer should still look to put basic agreements in place to protect their valuable data.  Certainly the use of a LinkedIn account to gather data or announce a change of job prior to an employee leaving their role has been found unlawful.

As part of these restrictions, clauses should be put in place ensuring that employees delete client details from their LinkedIn account, who they may contact, what can be said and specify a time period for when the restrictive covenant is in force.  Employers may also consider “Garden leave” whereby an employer remains in the control of the employee and can closely monitor social media activity.

Whilst it will be important to ensure you have the correct policies and procedures in place for new staff, it is vital that amendments are made to agreements with existing and long-term employees with a period of consultation and negotiation having to take place.  Employees that have well-established relationships with clients and good reputations could be considered more valuable and a higher risk to the business, although they are likely to be more difficult to negotiate with for this very reason.

For more information on putting these procedures in place please contact Simpla HR.

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