contract case delivers fresh warning to employers

A High Court judge’s decision has sent a fresh warning to employers on the importance of ensuring all employees sign their contracts of employment.

Michael Wakeling, a partner at Midlands law firm Lodders, explained,

The recent case involved facilities management company Tenon FM and its former employee Ms Susan Cawley, who began employment at the company in 2008, was given a number of promotions, before being appointed operations director.

When she resigned earlier this year (2018), she was alleged to have attempted to persuade a former colleague to join her new employer, which sparked Tenon to seek an interim High Court injunction to enforce the post termination restrictions against her contained within her contract of employment.

However, Tenon was unable to locate a copy of her contract of employment that Ms Cawley had actually signed. The High Court Judge rejected Tenon’s claims and denied the injunction. Tenon had asked that the judge consider the length of Ms Cawley’s employment as implied acceptance of the contract of employment, but the judge rejected the company’s position.

The case is a harsh reminder to all employers of the importance of ensuring that employees’ contracts of employment are signed, especially where they contain provisions that are detrimental to the employers, such as post termination restrictions, and also that employees should keep evidence of their employees’ agreement to any changes, and of the valid consideration provided.

Lodders’ Head of Employment, Nick Rowe, added,

The case certainly re-affirms the need to get employment contracts signed so that there is explicit agreement from the employee rather than simply implied acceptance, a factor that which Tenon FM relied upon in Court. This is especially important where there are issues contained within the contract document, such as IP, Restrictive Covenants and Confidentiality and Delivery up obligations.