Monthly Archives: April 2016

Restrictive Covenants – are they enforceable?

The High Court found in Bartholomews Agri Food v Thornton [2016] EWHC 648 (QB) that the reasonableness of an individual’s restrictive covenants will be judged at the point they were entered in to.

Therefore, if a junior employee is signed up to restrictions that are overly restrictive in terms of their breadth and/or their duration then they will simply be void as being in restraint of trade – irrespective of any subsequent promotion.

This means that even if a junior employee is promoted to a higher position where the restrictive covenant is therefore reasonable by the fact that their employment contract had covenants in them which were unreasonably wide may risk the fact that the employer cannot get the benefit of them even when the employee holds a position which would warrant the wider restrictions being in place.

Here the High Court also concluded that the restrictive covenant would have been void even if entered in to when Thornton became a senior employee. It restricted Thornton from undertaking work for any of Bartholomews’ clients regardless of his own dealings with them. On the facts, Thornton worked with just over 1% of the company’s clients (in terms of turnover) but the restriction had no personal nexus (whether that was working for and/or knowledge of the clients). Thus it was a broad, blanket restriction that was unenforceable.

As a reminder: Restrictive covenants are void as restraint of trade other than where they are necessary to protect the legitimate business interests of a company. Restrictions should always be tailored to the individual’s role as at the time they are entered into.

The restrictions should be the minimum necessary for the particular legitimate business interests they are said to protect. However, it is still possible to protect a business with bespoke restrictions – so make sure you seek help in drafting them.

Eye Tests – Employers responsibility?

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 explains what you, as an
employer, may need to do to protect your employees from any risks associated with Display Screen Equipment (DSE) (ie computers and laptops).

These Regulations only apply to employers whose workers regularly use DSE as
a significant part of their normal work (DSE users).

These Regulations do not apply to workers who use DSE infrequently or for
short periods of time.

If you have DSE users, you must:
■■ analyse workstations to assess and reduce risks;
■■ make sure controls are in place;
■■ provide information and training;
■■ provide eye and eyesight tests on request, and special spectacles if needed;
■■ review the assessment when the user or DSE changes.

What are the health risks with DSE?
Some workers may experience fatigue, eye strain, upper limb problems and
backache from overuse or improper use of DSE. These problems can also be
experienced from poorly designed workstations or work environments. Helping spot these risks help make workplaces safer and better places to be.

Advice: it is suggested that an employer who has DSE users consider the following:

Pay for the cost of an eye test every two years and the cost of a basic set of specs (usually around £100 or perhaps 75 contribution towards glasses if deterioration due to DSE use – the optician is able to assess this). There’s no requirement to pay for designer frames- that’s down to the employee.

Sometimes employers may be able to have a corporate agreement with an optician to provide fee eye tests for employees and family members if they use their glasses.