Some time ago I had this idea for an app I could make outside of my job, but my contract states that I need permission from my boss. This clause isn't very uncommon where I live in Europe.

What is uncommon though, is companies actually enforcing this clause. At least according to what I've heard from other developers. It's usually just there to make sure you don't start a similar business and start competing with your own employer.

The company I work at has less than 100 employees, so it's not exactly a large corporation.

I'm writing this because my boss would not allow me to create this app. The reason was that they would have to spend company resources on verifying that it wouldn't hurt the company image, since I would be sharing it under my own name, and I am associated with the company as an employee.

Frankly it's killing my motivation to do any programming outside of my job, for commercial reasons or just hobby stuff. I fear I might end up stagnating because of this.

I'm not sure what to do.

I am not sure if this restriction even legal in Europe. The application I'm considering to make is not competing with my employer at all.

I looked online but couldn't find stories about similar things happening in the EU, and I can't afford legal advice at this time, so I'm looking for:

  • Ideas (besides legal advice) on how to best handle this situation.
  • Sources to stories about similar cases in the EU would also be appreciated.
  • ideas on how to handle this before signing a contract at a different employer if I were to change jobs because of this
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    Please add a country tag. "Europe" is a broad field when it comes to law. For example, in my country this clause is common, but courts have ruled that the employer cannot deny permission without solid reasons. So it's basically just paperwork. Might be different in yours. – nvoigt Aug 16 '20 at 11:11
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    i'd really really advise against spending effort yourself making the app. Just hire developer on upwork to make it. Oh, you don't want to spend money on this because you cannot justify the returns? Well, then sounds like you definitely shouldn't be spending your time on it either. – bharal Aug 16 '20 at 12:32
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    @Bharal what a poor advise... so anything not profitable isn't worth spending time on it? – Laurent S. Aug 16 '20 at 13:03
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    Putting this on hold, You should clarify what exactly you're after here, we can't really make up your mind for you to that extent. You should also edit out the title so it doesn't read like a poll question. – Lilienthal Aug 16 '20 at 13:13
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    @Lilienthal it seems that the OP wants to create a commercial product outside of work and against the bosses decision. So the OP is looking for advice on how to accomplish that. – Kilisi Aug 16 '20 at 13:43

No one can stop you creating anything in your own time. Publishing it may be against contract though.

Normally if you think you have a winning idea that you can make work you quietly build it for your own proof of concept and then ask bosses etc,. If they say no you can move forwards deciding whether to quit and follow your idea or not. You did it at the wrong stage, at this point you just have an idea.

If it's something you want to do for your own growth etc,. then go ahead and develop it as a sort of hobby/training in your own time. Time enough to think about commercialising it when you actually have something to commercialise.

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    This is bad advice, because depending on the contract he has with them, it's entirely possible that his employer would wind up owning it entirely and would be within their rights to screw OP over by just taking it without any compensation for them. – nick012000 Aug 16 '20 at 11:51
  • @nick012000 you must be reading a different contract, according to the OP he has to ask permission to do development work outside employment, but no mention of ownership. Not something that would be skipped in a question like this. – Kilisi Aug 16 '20 at 12:06
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    @Kilisi the clause does not mention ownership specifically. It just specifies that I need to get the OK, which I did not get, unfortunately – ThrowawayDeveloperrr Aug 16 '20 at 12:25
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    Yeah, I get that, the thing with contracts is it needs to include that clause or its not an issue. Even if it does include it's debatable. Realistically if the boss can't afford to spend on verification that it won't hurt company image.... they can't afford to take you to court over a battle they'll probably lose either. – Kilisi Aug 16 '20 at 12:28
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    I upvoted on the basis of "publishing it may be against contract though." There's nothing wrong per se with creating an unpublished work, off time, that might conflict with an employer's products. This might result in something that might be useful to ones employer. There's nothing wrong per se with creating an unpublished work, off time, that in no way conflict with an employer's products. Some companies have no problem with this. One of my coworkers developed and received a patent for a better horse stirrup on his own time. We work in aerospace, not horse riding. No conflict, no problem. – David Hammen Aug 16 '20 at 14:37

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