Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

The case of Warm Zones v Thurley and Buckley concerns a relatively common issue in business – the retention and confidentiality of data, and what steps a business can take when an (ex-)employee has breached their duty of confidentiality towards their employer.

The facts

Ms Thurley and Ms Buckley were employees of Warm Zones, a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to eradicate fuel poverty. Although Warm Zones was a charitable organisation, it had built up a large database of clients and other proprietary and commercial information which would be valuable to any competitor in the energy markets. Ms Thurley was employed as a zone director from 8 January 2007 and Ms Buckley was employed as an IT and project manager from November 2009. Both employees were employed on identical business terms (their contracts included an express duty of confidentiality that they owed to their employer), both employees had access to the business’ database during the course of their employment, and both employees’ contracts terminated in March 2013.

After their contracts of employment terminated, both Ms Buckley and Ms Thurley joined UK SS Renewal Energy Services Limited (“RES”). It subsequently came to light (after documents were disclosed in a claim for unfair dismissal that Ms Thurley had brought against Warm Zones after her departure) that Ms Thurley and Ms Buckley had disclosed or intended to disclose Warm Zone’s confidential information to RES. Warm Zones therefore applied for a mandatory injunction and requested an order that would allow for the inspection of both Ms Buckley and Ms Thurley’s personal computers.

Mr Justice Smiler, sitting in the High Court, granted Warm Zones’ application for an injunction and stated that he would allow for Ms Thurley and Ms Buckley’s computers to be inspected and imaged by Warm Zones’ forensic team. The principal reason that Mr Justice Smiler granted the injunction and ordered the inspection was that he believed that damages would not be an adequate remedy if confidential information (which had been accrued over many years by Warm Zones) was disclosed by the two former employees. However, the Judge did make clear that he had reservations about the scope of the order that he would make, as he was concerned that third-party data and other irrelevant confidential information would be present on the personal computers of Ms Thurley and Ms Buckley.

What does this mean for me?

If you manage a business then it is important to include a clause in your employees’ (or consultants’) contracts relating to the business’ confidential information. This is an important step in protecting your business’ confidential information from disclosure, whether such disclosure is during the course of employment or after. You may also wish in appropriate circumstances to consider inserting restrictive covenants into your employees’ contracts of employment, as such covenants (if appropriate and well-drafted) will afford a large measure of protection to your business’ commercial interests if and when the employee leaves.

If you are an employee then you should check your contract of employment to see whether there is an express duty of confidentiality contained within your contract and, further, whether there are any restrictive covenants in your contract of employment which may bind you once your employment terminates. If you do have such clauses in your contract of employment then it may be advisable to obtain legal effect on the relevant terms and their effect.

Why is this case significant?

This case does not establish a new point of law. However, the granting of a mandatory injunction (a form of injunction that requires certain steps to be taken by third parties) as happened in this case is relatively rare, as compared to the granting of prohibitory injunctions (which forbid third parties from undertaking certain actions). However, this case does provide support for businesses, in that the courts are willing to recognise the commercial and proprietary value of business’ databases and to permit the business to enforce the confidentiality obligations that were included in the employees’ contracts of employment.

About Chris Hadrill

Chris is a specialist employment lawyer at Redmans. He specialises in contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including breach of contract claims, compromise agreements and Employment Tribunal cases. He writes on employment law matters on a variety of websites, including Direct 2 Lawyers, Lawontheweb.co.uk, LegalVoice, the Justice Gap and his own blog. Contact Chris by emailing him at chadrill@redmans.co.uk

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Our awards

Request a callback

Your name

Your email

Your telephone number

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk

Testimonials

4.76 Average

123 Reviews

Jake L

Chris is very professional and calm. Very attentive and patient, been a positive experience having Chris represent me, and would recommend him.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

Excellent service. It was a pleasure to work with Chris H, who is brilliant at what he does and very efficient. Their Senior Associate Rana T. is also very knowledgeable and resolves any queries speedily and efficiently. My issue could unfortunately not be resolved, but that was due to my employer and not the firm. Redmans however did all they could. I would definitely recommend them.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

Very pleasant and quick to deal with. Mnay thanks.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

Easy to get hold of. Quick.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Owen J

Very helpful, efficient service.

Posted 3 weeks ago

Anonymous

I am very lucky that I worked with Mr. Chris Hadrill and he managed my case very progressively with an analytical approach and trustfully. Of course with a very positive result. I strongly recommend Mr. Hadrill to any one seeking for a successful result from a highly qualified solicitor.

Posted 1 month ago

Kulbir S

Amazing, quick friendly service from Chris from the start and Caroline. They made me feel at ease during a difficult time, they understood and advised accordingly and I am really happy with the outcome of my case. Will always advise anyone who needs legal advice to contact Redmans, I’m so glad that I did and can confidently say I don’t think any other firm could have handled my case any better. Well done guys, wish you all the best and please keep doing what your doing, simply the best!

Posted 1 month ago

Mark A

Excellent service - rapid and “to the point” advice given to ensure meeting the target time frame

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Chris Hadrill kept me sane during the negotiations with my employer. He was courteous professional and he cared about doing the best he could for me. I will use Redmans again if ever I need an employment solicitor. Excellent service.

Posted 1 month ago

Muhammad Z

Awesome services. Professionals at their best .

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Thanks for the advice and for negotiating a good outcome. Good to have the support at a very stressful time

Posted 1 month ago

Chloe F

My solicitor at Redmans was very helpful and efficient. Really pleased with the smooth service.

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Chris was absolutely excellent. Clear and concise, offering sound advice.

Posted 1 month ago

Tim O

Experienced and competent advisors

Posted 1 month ago

Rachel A

Quick and expert assistance. I would highly recommend Chris for any of your legal needs.

Posted 1 month ago

Joe S

I was very happy with the service provided by Chris and the team at Redmans Solicitors. I felt very comfortable discussing all matters with Chris and am very grateful for all the help and guidance I was given throughout the whole process. I would definitely recommend Redmans Solicitors to friends and family!

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

I had a very good experience working with Chris Hadrill during a difficult and emotional time. This held true from the moment I spoke to him on the phone, to the end of the process. Overall, he was attentive, professional and highly supportive. He provided sound advice and clarity. It was the reviews that led me to Redmans! I was very happy to know they were all true. I highly recommend working with Redmans Solicitors. Thank-you to the entire team!

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Good service

Posted 1 month ago

Anonymous

Excellent professional service. Highly recommend.

Posted 1 month ago

Rob O

Very prompt response and I could not fault the service. My solicitor listened carefully to the details of my case and I felt very confident in the advice I was offered. All emails and work done on my behalf with my former employer was of the highest standard and Redmans helped take a lot of the stress out of the situation for me.

Posted 2 months ago

Mike H

Very professional, friendly, proactive. I would highly recommend Redmans.

Posted 2 months ago