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Are you protected from employee data theft?

23 November 2010 #Employment

Insider data theft is rife in the UK, a survey and figures from the High Court have shown.

The survey of more than 1,000 UK employees by security firm Imperva found 72% admitted taking data, with customer records (50%) topping the list, followed by merger and acquisition plans (17%). 

A quarter surveyed said their organisations did not restrict access to sensitive information or where there were measures, nearly half said they could get round them.  Clearly employers need to re-examine what restrictions they have to ensure these actually work.

Strikingly, over half of employees actually thought the information was rightfully theirs, including those changing jobs. To overcome this, it is important that contracts and policies are in place which covers what is confidential information and belongs to employer, what is unacceptable behaviour and what the penalties are for breaching such contracts and policies so that everyone knows and understands what is expected of them. 

Claim figures from the High Court relating to theft of confidential information have also shot up from 23 cases in 2008 to 95 in 2009.  These figures suggest that the recession has had an effect on employees, with redundancies and falls in bonuses prompting disgruntled employees to steal valuable data such as client lists so that they can set up in competition or take it to another employer.  This may be a particular problem in sales led non-regulatory environments such as property or recruitment agencies.

85% of employees surveyed had sensitive information on their home computer or mobile, leaving companies very exposed when employees left the company, especially when 60% of policies were found to neglect covering the removal of corporate information from such personal devices when they leave.  It is important that companies review their policies to ensure this is covered.

Employers can also add restrictive covenants to employment contracts to contractually restrict the activities of employees after the termination of their employment, such as a restriction to stop employees soliciting former clients or to prevent the use of clearly defined contractual documents.  Without such contractual provisions in place, employers are only likely to be able to protect genuine trade secrets, which will not cover the majority of information businesses are likely to want to keep confidential.

Employmentbuddy has a factsheet on restrictive covenants and guidance notes on the introduction of restrictive covenants to existing and new employees.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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