I've got a non-compete clause in my contract, however from what I've read, I would consider it to be 'over restrictive', and as such un-enforcable.

The wording is thus:

As a separate agreement you undertake that you will not within 20 miles for a period of 12 months after termination of your employment either on your own account or on behalf of any other person, firm or company carry on or be engaged in any business which shall be in competition with the business of the Company at the date of termination.

Which is basically say I cannot earn a living whatsoever in my chosen trade (web development) unless I effectively move house, which I'd consider a 'restraint of trade'.

From what I understand, the tests that are applied to these clauses are:

  • Reasonable
  • Necessary to protect legitimate business interests; and
  • Of a duration no longer than is necessary to protect those interests

As a senior member of the company, I can understand why it could be seen as necessary (although there is also a non-poaching clause and a non-soliciting clause which would protect their interests anyway), however the 20 miles radius and 12 month duration (particularly considering the average length of any given job is about 3 months, and the longest ones are only typically 6 months) to me seem unreasonable (but then I am biased!)

Has anyone else had experience with this, and is it likely to be enforceable or not?

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    You're asking for legal advice, which is off topic here. Talk to a lawyer. – Philip Kendall Aug 3 '15 at 17:54
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    IANAL, but 20 miles hardly seems a restrictive burden. More than half of my neighborhood works more than 20 miles from home. This is quite commonplace in suburbs near a large metropolitan area. May be hard to argue in court that that is a burden. – cdkMoose Aug 3 '15 at 17:56
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    @cdkMoose: but if you live IN the metropolitan area, it could rule out nearly all the available jobs in one's field. – LindaJeanne Aug 3 '15 at 18:23
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    Maybe it's just where I've lived, but I've been on both sides and 20 miles was not restrictive. Obviously not as easy as it might be, but hardly a restriction that the courts might recognize. I am in the US, having worked in or near NYC, Boston and Newport RI – cdkMoose Aug 3 '15 at 18:33
  • I find it really bizarre that you think the average length of a given job is 3 months. Where I live a string of 3 month jobs (unless you are an independent contractor) would make you virtually unemployable after a couple of years. However, you agreed to the noncompete clause, then you should honor it whether it is legal or not. Or does your word have no value? – HLGEM Aug 3 '15 at 19:10

Have a look at this, it's by UK lawyers so is closer to the legal advice we can't give:

For a restrictive covenant to be enforced it must not be drafted too widely. It will be for the employer, in the event of a clause being challenged, to show that the clause is justified and sufficiently narrow.

Restrictive covenants in employment contracts

The breadth of the geographical area of any restriction and the length of time of the post termination restriction must be justified. It is unlikely that a wide geographical area will be justified


IMO, ( i am not a lawyer) it is an abusive clause.

Non-compete clauses are never/rarely enforceable.

If a company wants to enforce it with legal actions, it might be considered a SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation) and will be dismissed by the courts.

The company will have to prove in court that you would be "abusing" trade secrets and/or proprietary Intellectual Properties and/or that the company needs to protect vital business interests.

BTW, 20 miles is really big area/radius, if it were the case for me (Montreal Canada), I could not work and would have to move way out; which is abusive.

  • 1
    SLAPP? this is the UK and @Max 20 miles may or may not be abusive its the 12 months that would be unlikely to be enforceable. And in the UK Non competes are even harder than the USA to enforce – Pepone Aug 3 '15 at 22:18

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