My mind turns to Gardening Leave, not because I have any outstanding disputes with any of my ex-employers but because there seems to be a lack of clarity as to when and why one might use it if one was an employer.

If someone is on Gardening Leave they remain an employee and may not work for anyone else, although this also depends on the terms of the employment contract. In a world of zero hours contracts, this maybe a part of the law that will be re-examined.

For full time workers though, more and more companies are placing terms in their contracts that if one should, say, invent a new cheese in one’s back garden, then the company claims the exploitation rights. All inventions belong to your employer. It’s unclear if another month, or three months would make much difference though, but protecting the company’s intellectual property remains a motive for delaying people leaving as does getting them off site and off the IT systems.

Another key advantage is that the employee cannot work for a competitor, again, employers often via employment contracts try and restrain people’s ability to compete with them on quitting, but this is fraught with legal risk; keeping them on the books is legally much safer. Many sales staff may find themselves constrained in this way and the strengthened data protection laws will make it harder for them to take their address books with them.

A specific and unusual example of this is where staff of regulatory, political policy or law enforcement organisations leave their job to work for regulated entities. In fact, the public sector has constraints on this, but they have been weakened in time over the decades. The public sector employment contracts nearly all have clauses similar to private sector non-compete clauses but restraining public servants from working with organisations that they had regulatory or procurement relationships with. Despite this many lobbying organisations employ ex-politicians, civil servants and police. (In some ways, the movement in the other direction is more corrupt.)

The final example is where someone has financial or judicially regulated authority within the organisation. It’s usually inappropriate to leave such senior staff in place once they have resigned, and certainly of there are question marks on their remaining commitment. This of course is compounded where a compromise agreement has been signed to avoid the need to undertake disciplinary or redundancy processes. Management need to ensure that they are acting in the interests of the organisation’s stakeholders and protect themselves against a class action.

That’s where the Labour Party finds itself. A huge swath of its senior staff have put in their notice, they remain able to exercise their authority and for some reason are being permitted to work their notice, in some cases it would seem an extended notice.

It should be noted that for the ex-employee, if someone with a full time job, one or three months gardening leave can be a welcome gift.

Time in the Garden
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