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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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Gary P

All good advice, prompt and efficient

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Anonymous

Excellent advice and customer service.

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Aneet G

I would definitely recommend Redmans. Very impressed with service provided. They were extremely proactive in handling my case which made things easier for me. Provided sound advice and resolution. Special credit for this goes to Chris who dealt with my case with great determination and consideration.

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Very efficient and friendly

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Excellent, quick and informative. Chris was a real star and gave me confidence during the uncertainty if a redundancy settlement.

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Felt in very capable hands was listened to and given excellent advice. Would not hesitate to recomend and use again if needed.

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Fabulous service all round.

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Anonymous

Redmans were quick to respond to my enquiry and dealt with my case professionally and personably. I received sound advice and was put at ease by Chris Hadrill, Partner.

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Alkhas K

Excellent service.

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Mathias G

Contacted them regarding my end of employment agreement. Chris Hadrill dealt with it and was done and handed back to employer same day more than happy with there service.

Posted 2 months ago

Mark W

Most professional from start to finish offering very a personal service. Most impressive and quick when dealing with the matters in hand.

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I am very glad I came across Redmans Solicitors. Fantastic service!

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Fantastic communication, always happy to answer queries, highly recommended.

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They were very straight to the point, friendly and understanding people. I felt they had my best interest. They were easy to get hold of, replies were almost instant. 5/5 for customer service

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Caroline was fantastic to work with - extremely knowledgeable, supportive, thorough and honest. I definitely recommend Redmans!

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Very well done and fast support. Professional and reliable. Highly recommended!

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Helene L

They were very knowledgable in the respected area in terms of change in law/regulations that is crucial for the clients who are seeking for legal arvice.

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Sara R

Very helpful and wonderful advice

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