Protecting your confidential information


Protecting your business’s confidential information is a high priority for employers, especially when employees leave.

Confidential information such as client lists, pricing information, market research data, sales and marketing plans are all considered to be confidential in nature and are at a greater risk of exposure especially when employees leave to take on a role with a competitor.

There are some ways to minimise risks and protect your confidential information, including the following:

Identify and label your trade secrets
Information that is not accessible to the general public and is valuable to the employer is considered confidential information. The information may provide the employer with a competitive advantage and is not easily accessible by others. If the information is viable from other legitimate sources or is used by employees in their usual work routine it may not be considered confidential.

When assessing your business be realistic and avoid overreaching every aspect of your business as a trade secret. After identifying confidential information and trade secrets, you may consider labelling documents or electronic information as “confidential” so employees are aware of what is considered confidential.

Limit access
Implementing internal controls is one way to restrict access to only the employees who need the information to complete their tasks. For example, physical documents containing confidential information may be stored in locked file cabinets and for electronic data, passwords should only be given to appropriate staff.

When an employee departs your business, it is important to collect documents and valuables provided such as smartphones and laptops to protect information from being leaked.

Consider a confidentiality policy
To ensure employees are aware of their expectations in regards to confidential information, you may consider adding a confidential policy to the employee’s handbook.

The policy should clearly identify what you consider to be confidential information in your business and when employees are allowed to access this information. The policy should coincide with the employee contract which should include a provision to prohibit use or disclosure of the business’s confidential information and trade secrets.