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I work for a big company, and I have been responsible for a successful project. I faced bullying, harassement and ultimately nepotism - once the project was confirmed to be successful, somebody tried to push me out of the picture, removing me from my own project. If I stay, I won't be able to get credit for my work, despite my peers and my customers recognising my contribution. I also know the same person who pushed to take over my project is pushing for my termination.

A competitor offered me more money, a more senior title and a better environment (I know quite a few people and we like each other).

My employer is planning to enforce the non-compete clause in the UK. I know that I need a lawyer, yes. But I am also wondering if there is anything done commonly in this situation. If I stay, no raise, no promotion, sidelining and possibly termination. If I leave to get raise and promotion, my employer sues me because of the non-compete clause. They don't want me to work in the company, they don't want me to work outside the company - they don't want me to exist. Is there any common practice, or something that happens frequently in these cases?

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    this is a good starting point: citizensadvice.org.uk/work/leaving-a-job/resigning/… non-competes are notoriously difficult to enforce, so you should have yours looked over by a lawyer assess it's reasonableness and whether it applies to your current situation. Suing is time consuming and expensive, so most employer don't
    – Hilmar
    Oct 30, 2021 at 12:50
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    @lcrmorin Definitely not the case in English law. Oct 30, 2021 at 17:58
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    My employer is planning to enforce the non-compete clause in the UK Planning to? No, sorry. They can't make you sign it and can't fire you for not signing it (you'll be fired for some other trumped up allegation) and if you haven't signed it, you're not bound by it.
    – Justin
    Oct 31, 2021 at 17:36
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    Termination would not be in the interest of the company, as it conflicts with the company's reasoning for the non-compete clause. Basically, that is the quickest way to get the clause dismissed, and I'm certain they are aware of that. Nov 1, 2021 at 13:11
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    Have you told your prospective new employer about the non-compete? Firstly it's something you definitely should tell them, but also because they may be able to offer some help.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 1, 2021 at 16:29

3 Answers 3

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How to prevent employer from preventing me to work?

Your employer isn't preventing you from working. Apparently they intend to prevent you from working for a competitor - which is what you agreed to when you signed the non-compete.

They don't want me to work in the company, they don't want me to work outside the company - they don't want me to exist. Is there any common practice, or something that happens frequently in these cases?

Most folks would find a job with a company that doesn't compete, and thus doesn't violate the agreement you signed.

If you choose to go ahead anyway, talk with your lawyer beforehand and ask how you can best be prepared to be sued. If, as you have indicated, the company "is planning to enforce the non-compete clause", then you'll need legal assistance.

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    Just because there's a non-compete doesn't mean it's enforceable. I know for a fact that the non-compete in my contract is unenforceable as it doesn't specify what roles I'm not allowed to do for competitors, and so the entire non-compete will be voided if my current employer tries to enforce it. Oct 30, 2021 at 18:25
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    @user1666620 That would, of itself, not make a non-compete unenforceable in English law; the only requirement is that the non-compete must be "reasonable", which as Joe says would ultimately be assessed by a court. Oct 30, 2021 at 20:09
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    While talking to the lawyer ask them about your current situation, which sounds like harassment to me. And ask if the compete clause still applies if you are fired. It may be worth getting fired. Oct 30, 2021 at 21:55
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    I've never seen a non-compete that listed specific job roles, and it's doubtful that the lack of that has any bearing on the enforceability of a non-compete.
    – joeqwerty
    Oct 31, 2021 at 16:02
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    If the prospective new employer likes OP enough, they might even lend in-house legal services...
    – AakashM
    Nov 1, 2021 at 9:33
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Talk to your lawyer about constructive dismissal.

I'm not a lawyer, and this isn't legal advice, but it sounds to me like your employer is deliberately creating a hostile work environment for you in the hopes that you'll quit. There's a name for that: constructive dismissal, and my understanding is that it's against the law.

As such, I would recommend that you copy any evidence that you have about your treatment to a location under your personal control (i.e. personal email, USB stick you take home, etc), and then consult an employment lawyer about both your noncompete contract and constructive dismissal, and whether one would void the other.

Even if they don't however, you may well be able to negotiate a settlement agreement where you waive your right to sue them for constructive dismissal in exchange for the noncompete being waived.

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  • Thanks. My lawyer advised against this as it might damage my reputation in the industry and towards my new employer, and they also have similar non compete clauses and might see me as a future problem.
    – user38290
    Nov 2, 2021 at 14:39
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    @Monoandale I'd suggest you talk with your new employer on this one, then. You know quite a few people there and they like you. Do they know you're being made miserable? Do they know about the noncompete issue? If you talk it out with them first and they agree that this is the thing to do, it wont' damage your opinion with them.
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 2, 2021 at 21:41
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    @Monoandale - Have you been at your employer for less than two years? That could be the reason he has advised against a case of constructive dismissal. Either way I'm surprised an employment lawyer would advise against the case on the grounds of reputation as it's a long way to a tribunal hearing and any settlement made in the meantime would be confidential. If the employer is willing to flout labour laws they should be held to account and suffer the negative reputational consequences.
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 5, 2021 at 16:20
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Ideally, don't sign a non-compete that allows this situation. I.e. if the company creates a nasty situation like the one described, they void that non-compete.

Of course, it is too late for that. But as they say, a non-compete is hard to enforce. It is hard because they have to prove you're competing with them. So quit, and leave no forwarding address. They won't know where you went, and that is the first obstacle. Even better if it is possible to "misinform" them: You tell about your new position at some clearly non-competing faraway entity - where you only work a day before moving to the real new job. Or perhaps you change your mind later and never start there.

So, are they going to investigate where you are, in order to enforce that non-compete? Did they ever bother to do that for those that left before you? Probably not, a non-compete get enforced if the competing work is blatantly in their face. If you can avoid that, fine.

Even if you work for some competitor, they still have to discover that fact, and then prove that you actually do competing type of work. But they cannot easily know what you're doing there; if a company ask a competitor "what exactly is employee X doing for you?", they will not likely get an answer. Nobody sane tell their competitors details about their operation. So how much effort will they put in, just to find out if some former employee eventually ended up competing?

This sort of trickery is legally dubious, but morally fine. They create a problem, you don't keep it!

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