Non-Compete Clauses & the Movement of People

29 Apr 2016

In eerie juxtaposition with my piece last week about the EU Trade Secrets Directive, Sajid Javid MP (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) launched a consultation exercise last Sunday about banning non-compete clauses in employment arrangements. He says they could be stifling British entrepreneurs from leaving their employers to start their own ventures. The Minister “is clear” he wants to break down barriers that are curbing innovation and entrepreneurship.

Non-compete clauses are tricky to enforce. They’re subject to the establishment of a clear legitimate interest which is capable of protection and to reasonableness which will always be assessed in the context of the circumstances of individual cases. But they can be valuable to a business, especially a business which has invested heavily in its own distinctive brand and has a legitimate interest in protecting that brand against an ex-employee exploiting insider knowledge. While I’m not sure non-compete clauses curb innovation I am sure business can do without the heavy boot of legislation in this sensitive area.

Also on Sunday, and fresh from announcing a 500% increase in some immigration tribunal fees (the previous imposition of fees and abolition of many rights of appeal having caused a predictable shortfall in revenue), Dominic Raab MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice) suggested a post-Brexit UK should impose visa requirements on those of us who want to visit France, Germany, Belgium and Greece. He based this on recent terrorist activity. I’m more concerned the Home Office IT system won’t cope. That eclectic gang of four countries account for approximately 23 million visits by UK citizens a year (with approximately 7 million visits in the other direction). Does anyone seriously think the Home Office can cope with that volume of new work?

Consider this; on 7 December last year the National Audit Office published a report on the Home Office border control system. One of its findings was that the system experiences an average of two “high-priority” incidents a week. That’s an incident in which a component of the warning index is unavailable (or running so slowly as to be effectively unavailable) or 30% or more of control points at a border are unavailable. There’s a working assumption this won’t be resolved until 2019.

PS: the current fee for a visitor’s visa is £87…