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Protecting Confidential Information: The Notice Period

This article is the second piece in a three part series of blogs focussed on how organisations can most effectively protect themselves against employees stealing confidential information.  Following on from our first blog in the series, which focussed on both surveillance policies and restraint of trade clauses, this blog will discuss how to effectively protect your company’s confidential information from an employee during their official notice period.

Employment relationships are just like any other relationship: the only certainty is that they will eventually come to an end – and whether an employee resigns, or is terminated, the notice period can be a risky time for businesses.

Departing employees tend to be looking forward to their next positions, thus their focus and priorities often shift from looking after their employer’s interests, to taking care of their own.  The notice period is also the most likely time that an employee will attempt to steal company property and documents.  For that reason, businesses need to manage the transition process carefully in order to get the most out of departing employees, while also protecting themselves from risk.

What are some simple steps that companies can take during the notice period?

Take some time to consider whether there is any actual benefit to the company in having the employee serve out their notice period in the office.  It may be safer for the business if the employee is directed to serve out their notice period from home, or even to simply offer them an early release.

Prepare a termination checklist for the employee that includes, amongst other things, the following steps.  Keep in mind that it is just as important to allocate a person to complete the checklist, in order to ensure that everything is ticked off sufficiently:

  • A review by the employee’s manager looking at the status of their current work, including any critical dates for the completion of tasks;
  • Updating customer and supplier records to ensure that all relevant contact details are up to date;
  • A calculation of monies that may be owed (for example study expenses or equipment purchased under a salary sacrifice arrangement), as well as calculating any accrued entitlements (including superannuation) up to and including the date of termination;
  • Identifying all services and systems used by the employee, in order to manage the removal of any access to those services and systems; and
  • The return of all company property in the employee’s possession, including any documents.

Prepare a letter that clearly communicates to the employee: 

  • The last date they are required to attend work;
  • Any specific tasks they are expected to complete; 
  • A list of company property that is to be returned, including a reminder that property includes documents and information; and
  • When and where they are required to return all company property.  

You may also include in the letter a short statement reminding the employee of their confidentiality obligations, as well as any contractual post-employment restraints (if applicable).
Above all, Coleman Greig strongly suggests seeking legal advice, especially in the case of employees who are leaving to go to a competitor.

Our next blog providing practical steps for the protection of confidential information will discuss a number of preventative measures that businesses are able to take on an employee’s day of termination, as well as what to do if you suspect an employee has stolen company data.

If you would like to speak with someone in our Employment Law team regarding how to most effectively protect your company’s confidential information, or you simply have a query relating to the above information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with:

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