How We Can Help In The Battle Against Loss Of Confidential Information
- AuthorJoan Casson
Employees are regularly allowed access to information about customers so they can do their job. All too often, employees leave their employment for a new job taking with them customer details obtained from their former employer. Sadly, many times their intention is to use that information to contact those customers to offer goods or services on behalf of their new employer.
To carry out their business, employers hold personal data of their customers. Many prudent employers try to prevent the loss of customer information with contractual clauses and policies requiring employees to return company information, both original documents and copies, relating not only to confidential information about the company but also information relating to its customers. They also attempt to limit the potential for damage to the company by restricting employees from working for a competitor or contacting or dealing with company customers for a period of time after their employment ends. Properly drafted clauses which are regularly reviewed can provide much needed protection.
All employers holding personal data must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 (‘the DPA’) which regulates the processing of that information. The Information Commissioner’s Office prosecutes breaches of the DPA and has taken a number of prosecutions against employees for taking customer details without their employer’s consent.
Clearly employers must also follow the DPA and have in place protections concerning the processing of personal data. They should ensure that they have done everything they could reasonably do so that the information is not lost or stolen. The very real risk of a criminal prosecution should act as an additional deterrent preventing most employees from taking client details to improve their prospects in a new job.
To comply with the DPA, employers should adopt data protection policies. These policies should set out the appropriate procedures relating to the processing of personal data held by employers. In this way, employers add greater protection to their businesses and reputations but also, most importantly, to their customers’ personal data. So long as the employer has taken appropriate action, the DPA also provides employers with another weapon to guard against the loss of customer details by departing employees. Employers should not view the DPA as just another set of rules with which they must comply, they should appreciate and emphasise the assistance provided by the DPA in preventing the loss of customer details through departing employees.
Speak to me if you want our Employment Law Team to help and advise you to formulate your policies.