Three-year covenant

It may be helpful to your readers to add a comment to the article on "Ruling Backs Restrictive Covenants" in The Lawyer, 23 September.

Otherwise, they could be left with the mistaken impression that any three-year restrictive covenant on a professional person is enforceable as a result of the decision in Taylor Stuart & Co v Croft. I should perhaps add that my firm was not involved in this case.

I do not regard this case as authority for supporting the proposition that a three-year non-solicitation clause, whether it be of all clients or just those the employee dealt with, would normally be enforceable in an employment contract.

In a much larger organisation, such a restriction would, in all probability, have been unenforceable regardless of its period – see, for example, Marley Tile Co v Johnson 1982 IRLR 75. In any event, does an employer really need three years to secure the goodwill of clients?

The argument for such a restriction is stronger where the contact is on an annual basis, for example, where there is an annual audit, but to suggest that this is a universal requirement is stretching a point.

J W Roskill

Rowe & Maw.