LinkedIn might make be a great way to poach employees, but a case from Britain suggests employers need to develop policies to prevent the loss of important company data when a staff member leaves.
A worker in Britain is taking action against his former employer after being fired for criticising his company and saying he could be contacted for career opportunities. The case is not yet concluded.
Kate Jenkins, partner at law firm Freehills, says the case suggests businesses should consider developing a targeted policy on employee use of LinkedIn to ensure that employers don’t use the networking site to advertise their intention to find a new job, inform company clients of their new role, or use the platform to benefit their new business.
The legality of those policies are currently untested in Australia, but Jenkins says most businesses have been slow to put even put social media policies in place.
“At the moment, most employers haven’t really set out the boundaries and rules,” Jenkins says.
In jobs and sectors where a client list is crucial, a departing employee can notify a large range of clients by simply updating a LinkedIn account – a key risk for employers.
Jenkins says a LinkedIn policy would cover acceptable use, contact settings, approval procedures for publication of marketing content and third-party recommendations and conditions of use after the employment ends.
“In that policy or guidance, employers might say it’s expected you don’t nominate you are looking for employment, or divulge confidential information about your role, or list client names or information about the business practice of your company.
“They might say that on departure you will discuss with us how your LinkedIn account, and particular contacts acquired during employment, will be managed.”
“While being realistic, there should be practical boundaries around how the LinkedIn account is used and what happens after a person leaves,” Jenkins says, adding a restraint clause in an employment contract might be amended to include contacting people through the site.
Another response is making acceptance of LinkedIn guidelines a condition of employment.
Hall & Wilcox partner Karl Rozenbergs says he is advising employers to ensure that contacts developed through the course of employment remain the company’s and that an employee agrees to delete all relevant contacts on departure.
“It’s like giving business cards,” Rozenbergs says.