Non-Compete Agreement In Labor Contract
The principle “freedom to work” is recognized and respected by the Labor Code 2012. However, this regulation may harm legitimate business interests of employers when employees, during the performance of the labor contract or especially after the termination of the labor contract, reveal the business or technology secrets to compete with the employers. Therefore it is necessary to create the limits on the freedom to work, for the purpose of preventing workers from revealing employers’ business or technology secrets. Law in many countries around the world has recognized “Non-Compete Agreement” as a tool to enforce security programs.
The Labor Code 2012 and sub-law documents do not mention to the definition of “Non Compete Agreement”, but make the provision that: “When an employee performs a job which is directly related to business or technology secrets as prescribed by law, the employer may reach a written agreement with the employees on the content and duration of protection of business or technology secrets, and benefits and compensation in case of violation by the employees”.
The definition of “Non-Compete Agreement” is inferred by explaining the provisions of law and referred to the articles of legal experts. “Non-Compete Agreement” is a legal contract between an employee and an employer, for a purpose of preventing the worker from competing directly or working for a competitor during the performance of the labor contract or especially after the termination of the labor contract. Thereby, we can infer that only when employers have business or technology secrets, they have the right to make Non-Compete Agreement. Moreover, the legitimate business interests that are protected must be legal, unique, influence the maintenance, stability and development of business activities.
Analyzing the provision “Non-Compete Agreement”, we can conclude that, the employees adjusted by the “Non-Compete Agreement” is the worker who is directly involved in business or technology secrets (such as the senior managers, senior technicians and others are obliged to keep business or technology secrets). The Labor Code 2012 has regulated that the “Non-Compete Agreement” must be on text.
The provision of Non-Compete Agreement is necessary for employers to protect business or technology secrets, but it is difficult for workers to find job after the contract terminates. Therefore, Non-Compete Agreement should balance the interests between employers and employees by setting reasonable limits in time, geographic scope and particular industry or activity.
(i) For restriction on time, the Labor Code 2012 does not specify restriction period or the point of starting restriction period. This is entirely upon the parties. However, Non-Compete Agreement can not be enforced unless it specifies a reasonable restriction period. Referring to the law of some European countries (Germany, France) and Asian countries for example in China, the maximum restriction time is 02 years, to ensure that employees have conditions to find new jobs.
Moreover, it provides opportunities for employers to motivate, improve the technology and business secrets to develop. On the other hand, law in some other countries distinguishes between highly skilled workers (group 1) and unqualified employees (group 2). Spanish law is a typical example, the maximum restriction period is two years for workers in group 1 and six months for group 2.
(ii) Restriction on geographic scope is not regulated in Vietnamese law. Meanwhile, most countries such as France, China and Russia all regulate that the restriction is on the whole country. However, due to differences in society, economic and education conditions, Vietnam can hardly regulate like that. On the other hand, when making the provisions of the restrictions on geographic scope, it is necessary to base on the performance of the company, the method of production, the size of and the type of company.
(iii) For restriction on particular industry or activity, most courts tend to consider the work that employees will work in the new labor contract. Normally, if the new job is similar to the old one, it will not be approved by the court. Under the Labor Code 2012, the content of restrictions on particular industry or activity when employees enter into agreement include: (i) obligation to keep trade information confidential (business secrets, technology secrets) ; (ii) not be able to work for the competitor of former employers or to conduct his own business competing with former employers.
Labor Code in our country does not specify the scope of the restriction on particular industry or activity, it depends entirely on the will of the parties. Non-Compete Agreement can not be applied to all jobs, but only to those who hold business and technology secrets. For every type of work there will be a different range of restrictions. The scope of the restriction is not exceeding the employees’ professional capacity and ensuring the opportunity of works in the future.
The benefit that employees receive when signed the Non-compete Agreement can be the opportunity for promotion, high salary, and commendation if the Non-Compete Agreement is made while the labor contract is valid. If the Non-Compete Agreement is applied after the labor contract terminates, employees shall receive the compensation. The amount of compensation is upon the agreement of the parties and must be satisfactory with the restriction of job opportunities. There are some cases that employees may not be entitled compensation are to violate the Non-Compete Agreement or die or prison sentence.
According to the Labor Code 2012, in case of violating the non-compete contract, employees have obligation to compensate, but it does not give specific compensation amount as well as the method of compensation. In order to claim compensation, employers must demonstrate these following factors: (1) the violation of the Non-Compete Agreement; (2) actual damage (the lost revenue and profit of the employer); (3) the causal relationship between the infringement and the damage; (4) fault of the employee. The amount of compensation must correspond to the amount of lost revenue or profit. In addition, employees must return the non-owned assets that are exploited and developed to compete with former employers. Moreover, employees must repay the compensation and other benefits paid by former employers if agreed in the agreement.