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Look before you sign

What rights should your current employer have to stop you moving on to another one?

Kinoca Minolta came out in a bad light after its court victory enforcing a three-month restraint of trade clause, but in the end, it was only enforcing a contract.

True, it seemed odd to place such conditions on former employee Vaughan Love. He was only a humble account manager after all, hardly a country manager or member of the board. What Earth shattering secrets could he take with him?

Yet such restraints of trade are commonplace in IT globally, if normally at a higher level.

And if he signed a contract which contained the clause, then surely it should be enforced, no matter how silly it may seem. He gave his word and he must abide by it. This is why we must all look to our contracts and decide whether or not to sign them.

Where such restraints of trade apply, it is also reasonable to expect a clause allowing for 'garden leave' — where the departing staffer is sent home but still paid by his old employer (although I don't know if Love received such a courtesy).

Either way, lawyers are only too happy to advise on such employment matters to help firms avoid conflict and for employees to know where they stand.

So, to anyone about to start a new job, study the contract you are offered. If it includes a restraint of trade, either don't accept it or try and ensure 'garden leave' is offered. It's up to you.