School therapist sets up competing business using school’s materials

We acted for a secondary school that provides specialist education for autistic children and young people. We were approached by the school when a speech and language therapist did not return to work after the Christmas break. The employee gave notice and was signed off as sick by his GP for work-related stress for the duration of his notice period. It quickly came to the head teacher’s attention that the employee had since contacted the client’s clinical psychologist, inviting him to leave the client and join his new company. The employee had then contacted a nearby school and was pitching his new company’s services, including pitching for services he had carried out on behalf of our client, using our client’s materials. The head teacher suspended the employee with pay and began investigating the matter.  We advised the client as to the merits of any claim and steps that could be taken to minimise the risk of a claim. We also advised on the practical steps that the client should take regarding the employee’s competing business, both against the employee and generally. Acting on that advice, the client was able to ensure that its property was returned by the employee and that the employee did not bring any claims against the client. The remainder of the employee’s notice period expired without further incident. As a result the client was able to minimise litigation risk from the employee, protect its position in the marketplace, and avoid financial expenditure and loss of management time. It was also important that the client as able to resolve the matter without damaging existing professional relationships with other local schools.

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