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Employment solicitor Chris Hadrill offers advice to employees who have been dismissed but have restrictive covenants in their contract of employment

Q. I have been dismissed by my former employer and have made a claim for unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal. However, I think I am stopped from obtaining new employment in the industry that I worked in because of restrictive covenants in my contract of employment. Do these covenants still have effect if I’ve been unfairly dismissed, as I’m claiming?

Restrictive covenants are contractually-binding promises not to do something. In an employment context they’re often known as “post-termination restrictive covenants” – as the name suggests they attempt to bind an employee not to do particular things after that employee leaves their employment. Generally, post-termination restrictive covenants attempt to bind the employee in some or all of the following ways: not to compete with their employer; not to solicit former clients and/or employees; not to misuse confidential information; and/or not to deal with former clients (among other things).

The effect of the restrictive covenants in your contract of employment will depend upon what those restrictive covenants actually are. If there is a non-compete covenant in your contract then this will generally stop you from competing in a particular manner with your employer for a particular time and in a particular geographical area after your employment ends. This can be, as you can imagine, quite restrictive and may stop you from obtaining employment for a period of time after you leave your job.

If you have been unfairly dismissed from your job (but not wrongfully dismissed or in any other way in breach of your actual contract) then the restrictive covenants will still generally take effect – unfair dismissal is a statutory claim and therefore an unfair dismissal will not breach your contract of employment, releasing you from the restrictive covenants. In order to try and argue that the manner of your dismissal has breached your contract of employment (and that you’re therefore not bound by the covenants) you may wish to rely on facts which demonstrate that there has been a breach of your contract – such as a failure to pay you adequate notice pay or a failure to pay you wages that you are owed (such as, for example, commission owed). However, although the benefit of such an argument is that you can potentially obtain release from any restrictive covenants, there is also the burden that such a line of argument can open you up to a counter-claim in the employment tribunal for negligence and/or breach of contract. The benefits of such an argument must therefore be weighed carefully against the potential burdens.

Generally, a “simple” unfair dismissal claim will not allow an employee to argue that they are released from any restrictive covenants in their contract of employment – the employee will instead need to argue that there has been a repudiatory breach of contract by their employer which releases them from the effect of any covenants. However, and as above, this may be a risky argument – it is therefore advisable that an employee obtain suitable legal advice from a specialist if they think that they’re bound by restrictive covenants.

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

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    Anonymous

    I dealt with Chris Hadrill who was very knowledgeable and professional. To provide some context, I raised a grievance with my Employer and with the help of Redmans received a settlement offer. I have secured alternative employment and would recommend Redmans overall. I was very satisfied with the service I received and would rate it as 5 star.

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    I contacted Redmans in regards to a situation I needed dealing with with my employer. This was resolved within a week of initial contact and I couldn’t be happier. Both Chris and Sacha were brilliant and couldn’t have been more helpful! Thanks guys!

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    Anonymous

    Quick proccessing of my Redundancy agreement.

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    Anonymous

    Fantastic support during a difficult time! Chris was fantastic, from the first conversation all the way through a difficult process. Chris supported me with a settlement agreement and his counsel was invaluable. The company I worked for tried to suggest some solicitors that they knew would simply rush through an agreement. Thankfully I found Chris and the Redmans team, what a relief! They fought for me and allowed me to keep my focus on the next stage in my career journey. If I go through anything similar in the future Redmans will be my first point of call!

    Posted 5 days ago

    Anonymous

    Quick responses to all inquiries. Supportive and provided top-notch service. Extremely pleased with the outcome and would recommend to anyone in need of legal advise.

    Posted 6 days ago

    Ben H

    Good, quick and informative service.

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    I liked Mel Chin's approach to my inctruction. She provided clear advice and explained things in a manner that I understand. I rated her service 5 out of 5.

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    James B

    Great and prompt service- would recommend and use again!

    Posted 1 week ago

    Emma L

    Excellent service. From start the team where efficient and helpful, the whole process was made easy on a very stressful and upsetting situation. They worked well to support my situation and negotiate. Would highly recommend. Thank you to Chris, Sacha and the team.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Brian H

    I must say, not seeing any of you and doing all on-line works very well. Very pleased with the service and would recommend you. Fantastic service. Many thanks Brian Haines

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    Sheenu A

    Professionals with excellent quality of work.

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    Maris T

    I recommend Redman's Solicitors. Chris was very helpful and informative. He provided a speedy and efficient service at a reasonable price.

    Posted 3 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    quick response, friendly staff, my issue was smoothly done. superb

    Posted 4 weeks ago

    Anonymous

    Overall I was very satisfied with the service I received. Right from making initial contact to being contacted by Chris Hadrill. He was easy to talk to, friendly and professional and gave sound advice. I would certainly use Redman's again. Thank you for all your help, Chris. I would rate my experience as 5 star.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Jane K

    4 stars for quality of advise. the team are good but it feels rushed sometimes and hard to contact.

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    Arabella B

    I am so grateful to Caroline Lewis at Redmans Solicitor’s for helping me with my Unfair Dismissal Case. I was seriously impressed how easy Redmans made the whole case, and am very happy with my Settlement. I have recommended your firm to at least 5 people in the last 3 months.. Thank you Caroline and everyone at Redmans. You are Brilliant .

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    Highly professional and efficient service.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Tanya T

    I had the pleasure of Chris and Sacha’s experience with a work matter. They made me feel at ease with the process and explained everything thoroughly. Would happily recommend Redmans especially Chris and use them if needed I’m the future. Thank you!

    Posted 1 month ago

    Anonymous

    I used the services of Redmans solicitors and was a quick outstanding service I engaged them in a settlement agreement after been made redundant extremely professional at all that was done and would definetly use them again

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    Adrian A

    Spot on support, enough to get the matter at hand sorted. No beating around the bush, no nonsense - got the job done and we all moved on.

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    Five Stars I was most impressed by the attention, courtesy, speed and above all, professionalism in dealing with my Settlement Agreement. I would certainly have no problem in recommending this firm to anyone in need of their services.

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