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I am currently working for a tech consultancy in London.

I have been contacted by another consultancy in London for a similar position, with a better title and salary. This consultancy is a direct competitor to the consultancy I am working for, as they operate on the same market.

In the contract that I signed for my current position there is a non-compete agreement. The non-compete agreement restricts me from working anywhere else in the UK, for 6 months after termination, for a competitor.

citizensadvice mentions:

No matter what’s in your contract, your old employer can’t stop you taking a new job unless it could lose them money. For example if you might:

  • take customers to your new employer when you leave
  • start a competing business in the same local area

Neither of these would be the case, as I don't interact directly with customers and I wouldn't be starting a business.

It also mentions:

If a restriction would stop you getting a job that didn’t affect your old employer, it might not be reasonable.

I wouldn't really be affecting the old employer by taking this new position. I have not accessed any confidential data, nor could I even harm them somehow as I do not deal with customers.

Is this non-compete enforceable? I believe it is unreasonable because it mentions I can't work for a competitor anywhere else in the UK.

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    You're in the UK, but in the USA, you'd be surprised at how many "this isn't reasonable" non-compete agreements are completely reasonable, and enforceable, in the eyes of the law. Don't get legal advice from the internet. Contact an attorney.
    – joeqwerty
    Jul 2, 2022 at 20:15
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    Your opinion doesn't matter. Your presumptions don't matter. Nothing that you, your colleagues and friends, or family thinks is relevant. Does the law find the non-compete to be reasonable and enforceable or not? That's the only thing that matters. A judge will apply a "reasonability test" to the non-compete, and based on the prevailing laws will determine whether or not the non-compete is reasonable and enforceable.
    – joeqwerty
    Jul 2, 2022 at 20:24
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    Get it tested in court. May the odds always be in your favour…
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 2, 2022 at 20:52
  • Depends on the state in the US, those clauses are unenforceable in CA for instance, since nearly every company in SIllion Valley is a competitor in some shape or form.
    – Donald
    Jul 3, 2022 at 4:25
  • That's exactly the situation where you contact a good employment lawyer. Handling this wrong might cost you a generous five digit sum of money. An employment lawyer is cheap in comparison.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 4, 2022 at 17:19

2 Answers 2

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I believe it is unreasonable because it mentions I can't work for a competitor anywhere else in the UK.

That, of itself, doesn't make it unreasonable, particularly for people in hi-tech fields where location is mostly irrelevant.

The question that will be looked it is whether the non-compete stops you obtaining work - i.e. would it be possible for you to go and work for another company that isn't a direct competitor. If your skills are ultra-specialised and the only companies you can work for are ones which are direct competitors of your employer, then it is likely to be unreasonable. If you could reasonably be expected to obtain employment (at similar pay and conditions to your current employment) with another tech firm which isn't a direct competitor to your current employer, then it is much less likely to be found to be unreasonable.

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  • Arguably it is precisely in the cases where the main or only market for the employee's labour is direct competitors, where a non-compete clause would be most desired by the employer. I'd say the general picture is that no kind of restriction on new employment is likely to be enforceable unless there is the facility of gardening leave at least as long as the restriction period.
    – Steve
    Jul 2, 2022 at 21:18
  • @Steve You may say that but that isn't the reality of UK law; see e.g. Tradition Financial Services v Gamberoni & Others, 2017. Jul 2, 2022 at 21:44
  • I'm not saying gardening leave is a specific legal requirement, but it should be taken as indicative of the overall remuneration required before the courts take employers seriously when they claim they need 6 month restraint clauses. The case you quote is of a London financier on about £140k/yr, and there was a notice period and gardening leave clause of 3-4 months (although that did not cover the majority of the restraint period), and he was bunged £40k by the new employer just as a golden hello. And for a man regarded merely as a "junior".
    – Steve
    Jul 2, 2022 at 22:14
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It's obviously precluded by the contract you signed. Whether it's enforceable would be up to the courts to decide.

Be careful with head hunting from competitors though, ruthless people will offer jobs they have no intention of giving in order to cause disruption or other issues in their competition. Or to give a job and never complete the probation period. These sorts would love to see employer vrs employee wasting time in court rather than being productive.

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