16

Seems like it states that even going out at the weekend to volunteer at a soup kitchen needs to be agreed via written consent by the CEO. I understand they want to limit conflicting work interests, but this one seems worded too broadly.

Is this standard wording or is it taking it too far?

  1. Outside Interests
    10.1 During the Employment (including without limitation during any period for which clause 2.5 is operated) the Employee shall not (save with the prior written consent of the Chief Executive Officer, or as already disclosed to the Chief Executive Officer prior to the Effective Date)

    a. directly or indirectly be engaged, concerned or interested in any capacity in any business, trade or occupation other than that of the Company except as a holder of not more than five per cent. of the issued shares or securities of any companies which are listed or dealt in on any recognized stock exchange or market. For this purpose "occupation" shall include any public, private, or charitable work which the Chief Executive Officer considers may hinder or interfere with the performance of the Employee's duties

Am I misinterpreting this clause or is it saying that they can prevent me from doing volunteer work?

  • 1
    I'd actually really like to see the legal validity of this clause. In the US this could probably be seen as a violation of your civil rights (Been happening a lot later where contracts and terms of service have been getting invalidated due to what is being stated is illegal and / or unconstitutional) Curious how this is in the UK. – RualStorge Jun 5 '14 at 19:06
  • 1
    I work in the US and I have had contracts with clauses like these in them. The intent is they just don't want you having a 2nd job (or something job-like) that could interfere with your job performance working for them. – Beo Jun 6 '14 at 12:34
  • The principle here is for the employer to have as much power as needed, but also to use them only when needed. Basically they can do a lot, but will do it only in extreme situations where your actions would do damages to the company. As long as the things you do, do not interfere with the company in any way, nobody will care. – Chapz Jun 20 '18 at 8:19
17

In theory, yes it seems that your employer could forbid you from volunteering at a soup kitchen. Though I doubt that is the sort of activity that your employer wishes to prevent. Of greater concern to companies is those activities that conflict with the interests of the company.

Things that your employer would be more likely to object to:

  • Employment in a second job
  • Ownership(full or partial) of company in excess of the amount allowed(5%)
  • Organizations that have been named as Terrorist organizations or restricted or prohibited due to their illegal activities.
  • Participation in illegal activities
  • Activism in groups like Occupy Wall Street, PETA, Sea Shepherds, et.
  • Activism in groups whose mission runs counter to your employers business interests
  • Participation in a militia

It is unlikely that your company is going to have a problem with your volunteerism though it is possible so I would recommend that you disclose an membership and activities you are involved in. If you are reluctant to do so then you should probably consult a solicitor(Lawyer) about your concerns and liabilities if you choose not to disclose. It is possible that you have rights that are being violated by this clause though a solicitor would be in a better position to judge this.

  • In the Uk there are rules that govern how employers treat TA members – Neuromancer Jun 20 '18 at 20:14
6

Am I misinterpreting this clause or is it saying that they can prevent me from doing volunteer work?

You are not misinterpreting it but they are—most likely—not going engage in preventative efforts against you. That’s simply time & resource consuming.

That said, clauses like this are basically “gotchas” in a contract designed to give the person creating the contract and advantage over you if/when the proverbial crap hits the fan.

Meaning, let’s say someone on staff just doesn’t like you & can’t pin something on you (i.e.: They don’t like you and want you gone.) they’ll just dig up a clause like this—or others—and suddenly decide to use this against you.

Then again, that is not something most sane & functional organizations engage in. It’s a waste of time & effort. The chances are slim.

But clauses like this are put in place to make sure that in the oddball chance that they need you gone & have no other choice, they can hold this against you. From a corporate, bureaucratic & organizational standpoint contracts like this are drawn up to ensure the company is always in control of the situation and the signer is not on equal footing.

If that makes you feel ill, don’t worry. Have you looked at your lease or rental agreement yet? Or any other casual contract you have. Heck, software usage agreements! Check them out! You might be shocked at how many of these “gotchas” exist in boilerplate language everywhere.

1

You are not misinterpreting it. The clause is absurd for the vast majority of employment cases. Unless the company was giving me a stupid amount of money, I would never sign something like that.

I would recommend not relying on their good intentions and hoping they won't enforce this for charity work or other activities.

Obviously, check with an attorney if you believe such a clause is not enforceable in your area.

1

In my opinion this is unacceptable language and I would not sign something like this. Now it's entirely possible and likely that this is "boilerplate" drafted by an overzealous company lawyer but that doesn't make it okay. Regardless of the intent, the actual legal obligation is created by the wording of this clause.

It's actually perfectly okay to challenge this (respectfully). Contracts and agreements can be changed and edited and that's not uncommon. You can go back to your manager and/or recruiter and basically ask for clarification or removal of this statement. Example

"So I have read clause 10.1.a and I have a few questions: This seems to restrict pretty much any activity I do outside of work, regardless whether it has anything to do with work or out. For example, I play with a band once a month in a local bar and we get paid a few bucks per night. According to wording of this paragraph I would need the CEO's specific approval every time I play with my band. I don't believe that this is the intent of this paragraph, so can you please reword this to better represent what you have in mind?"

As a manager, I would appreciate this type of response. If we have something stupid in the boilerplate we should fix it and I would value an employee who takes the time and has the attention to detail to plow through this stuff, reads it critically, and provides constructive feedback.

The companies reaction will be telling: They may dig in and refuse to make any changes or accommodations, but this should be setting of big red warning lights with you. Or they may say "wow, you are right, that's not what we intended, thanks for pointing this out".

1

I'd pick up on the part that says "or as already disclosed to the Chief Executive Officer prior to the Effective Date". In other words, before you start working, make sure you casually mention to the CEO that you do volunteer work, play in a band, whatever. Then it counts as something you've "already disclosed" (it doesn't say this prior disclosure has to have been in writing). That still doesn't help if you decide to join a band or start a bit of volunteering later, but at least you're covered for any hobbies you already had at the beginning.

  • Welcome to The Workplace / Stack Exchange! Please be careful about answering very old questions with many answers unless you can add something quite novel that hasn't already been posted. – user30031 Mar 1 '17 at 22:08
0

I work in the US and I have had contracts with clauses like these in them. It is not an uncommon practice in my experience. I am not an attorney so I don't know its legality.

The intent is the employer doesn't want want you having a 2nd job (or something job-like) that could interfere with your job performance working for them. It is not unheard of for people, even professionals, to have 2nd part-time jobs. Some of them even work on their part time jobs during their full time job, which is naturally undesirable to the employer.

A few strange examples:

I worked with a production supervisor in a fortune 100 company who was absent a lot. It turned out he was working in his father business the days he was absent. The department manager found out and terminated his employment.

One company I heard about had several employees who owned small businesses which sold raw materials to and performed services for the company. This is a huge conflict of interest.

A knew a chemistry manager who one weekend I found serving tables in a local low quality seafood restaurant.

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