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Can I keep my Linkedin contacts when I move to a new job?

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This is a complicated area and one that will be dependent on various factors, including the details of your employment contract, when the contact was made and whether they were made due to your own individual efforts.  When you leave your employment, LinkedIn could be a potential threat to your former employer as you can notify all of your contacts at the same time of your new position just by updating your profile, which could be a risk if your new employer is a competitor to your previous one.

Before social media and networking sites, materials created during the course of employment were confidential and usually deemed to be the employer’s proprietary information. However, when it comes to contacts made via social media, the position has not been so clear cut.

Who owns my Linkedin contacts?

When you open a LinkedIn account it requires you to enter into a contract with LinkedIn agreeing not to transfer ownership to someone else and to keep the password confidential.  You own the LinkedIn account and are not permitted to give ownership to your employer.  The question is whether the contacts obtained during employment are classed as confidential information owned by your employer or are they owned by you because it’s your account?

The first case on this issue was Hays Specialist Recruitment (Holdings) Ltd v Ions. Before leaving, Ions (the employee) had invited two of Hays’ clients to join his LinkedIn network.  Hays claimed that this information was confidential, but Ions argued that once the contact had accepted his invitation on LinkedIn it ceased to be confidential.  The Employment Tribunal rejected this and ordered Ions to disclose all of his LinkedIn business contacts as requested by Hays, plus all emails sent or received through his LinkedIn account from Hays’ computer network.  The Employment Tribunal held that even if the contacts were uploaded with Hays’ consent, their authorisation was only for the purposes of employment.

The case law in this area is still developing but so far the ownership of LinkedIn contacts has been determined with reference to various factors; including whether they have been created in the course of your employment and whether they result from your independent efforts. So, your LinkedIn contacts are more likely to belong to your employer than they are to you if those contacts are customers, employees, or vendors you did business with in your job.

You should also be careful of provisions which have been put in place in your employment contract or through your employer’s social media policy. If it is clear that the contacts remain the property of the company then it is unlikely that the contacts will be deemed to be yours.  You may therefore have to delete the contacts made as a result of your duties when you leave your employer.

You may also be bound by restrictive covenants, which you may be in breach of if you do not delete certain contacts.  

Breaching your restrictive covenants in your employment contract is an extremely serious situation. You can find out more about restrictive covenants and how we can support you if you are concerned about breaching them by clicking here. Alternatively, if you have questions regarding your Linkedin contacts, you can contact the Employment team today on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.

 

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.