Can I show up at a competitor’s Christmas party and poach their staff?

This article first appeared on December 11th, 2011.


Is it illegal or immoral to turn up at another business’ Christmas party and poach their staff?


Let’s handle the legalities first.


According to Alison Baker, an employment law expert and partner at Melbourne law firm Hall & Willcox: “A person who has an existing contractual relationship with a business may be prevented by the terms of that contract from turning up at the business’ Christmas party and attempting to poach their employees.”


“So too might a former employee, director or consultant of the business who is bound by the terms of a post termination restraint of trade (which prohibits the solicitation of employees).”


“However, if there is no such association between the person and the business, then there are no laws in place to prevent that person from attempting to ‘poach’ the business’ staff, including at the business’ Christmas party.”


“Turning up at a private event to which you are not invited, however, presents other issues.”


“For example, if the person is asked to leave the party, and refuses to do so, there could be serious legal (and reputational) consequences, which might include being placed under arrest (and subsequently prosecuted or sued) for trespass on private property.”


Let’s move on to the second part of the question. In the past, poaching people used to be quite a lengthy and covert operation.


Today it has become a lot easier, mainly due to social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.


It is now often the first way a recruiter will search for a particular skill set or industry specific person they want to poach.


To give you an example, with the massive skills shortage currently being experienced in the IT industry, some IT professionals are receiving about five approaches a week from companies or recruiters via LinkedIn.


Keep in mind that current statistics show that the average stay in an organisation is about 18 months.


So if you decide to use social media to poach someone, you may have more success with longer-term employees than newbies.


Before you make your approach be very clear on what you’ve got to offer that will be enticing enough for them to leave their current employer.


All you have to do then is make sure you live up to your promises.


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