You’ve resigned and have a new job but your boss claims your next position isn't appropriate and now they're demanding you hand over all your emails and your LinkedIn contacts! Believe it or not, this may be legal depending on the contract you signed when you first came on board. This is a prime example of why getting the contract details right at the start of your employment is so important. For more information on what to look for in your contract, click here.
Restraint of trade clausesOne tricky item that people often don't give much thought to is a ‘Restraint of Trade Clause.’ These are often found in employment contracts and may restrict what you can do when your job ends. These clauses are enforceable to the extent that an employer can take steps that are “reasonably necessary” to protect their legitimate business interests. You may not be allowed to work in the same field or industry for a set amount of time as stipulated in the contract. The law also protects things such as trade secrets and confidential information in both the interests of employers and third parties, and may require you to give up access to things such as customer lists and emails.
But how far does this extend? Can an employer request your LinkedIn or networking contacts?
LinkedIn ownershipLinkedIn is a unique social networking site as it blurs the lines between personal and work interests. Recently a British case suggested that employers may actually have ownership over their employees’ LinkedIn profiles. However, this has yet to be considered in Australia. Your contacts are likely to be deemed your own personal property, but this will depend upon the terms of your contract and why the account was created.
Work-related propertyProperty is another item that can be inadvertently overlooked when signing contracts. Generally, at the end of your employment your employer will expect the return of any work-related items such as phones, laptops, keys or company vehicles. So make sure you don’t hold onto that company iPhone.
Employee entitlementsEmployees are also well-protected by the law, with employers having to adhere to various legislative requirements. When your employment comes to an end you are entitled to a number of things such as outstanding wages, accrued annual and long-service leave and, in some cases, redundancy payments. End of financial year or commission-based bonuses may be conditional, however, depending on the terms of your contract and whether they are based purely on performance or other factors.
Finally, your boss can make you stay on and work out your notice period if they want or need you to. Depending on your length of service, or whether you are permanent or casual, you may have a notice of period of usually somewhere between 1-4 weeks. Failing to give appropriate notice may affect your leave entitlements.
Your employment contract is a vital document - don't sign or resign without reading it closely.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: September 26, 2018.