Relationship clause

An organisation may have a major interest in ensuring that certain employees do not run off with contacts and relationships in the future. A relationship clause offers a solution. With a relationship clause, an employer can prohibit an employee from maintaining contact with certain relationships for a certain period of time. This clause is different from a non-competition clause. Unless a non-competition clause has also been agreed, the employee is still allowed to enter into employment with a competitor or to set up a competing company himself.

Formulation and legal requirements

It often happens that a relationship clause has not been agreed upon correctly or has been formulated incorrectly. As a result, a court will later be able to nullify the relationship clause in whole or in part. As with the non-competition clause, the law imposes two formal requirements on the relationship clause, namely: (1) the employee must have reached the age of majority; and (2) he must agree in writing. Furthermore, it is very important to formulate the relationship clause clearly. It must be clear to the employee what he may and may not do. If the wording is unclear, an employee's interests will soon be harmed. One solution could be to provide a list of contacts with which an employee is not allowed to have contact.

Job change and Relationship clause

When an employee starts a new job, the current relationship clause should be examined critically. If there is a drastic change in the employment relationship, as a result of which the relationship clause will weigh more heavily on the employee, the relationship clause must be agreed in writing again.

Duration and (geographical) scope

The law does not impose any requirements on the duration and (geographical) scope of the relationship clause. In principle, therefore, there are no restrictions. However, a court is competent to limit the relationship clause if it finds that the clause is too broad in duration and/or (geographical) scope and is therefore unreasonable. We therefore recommend always taking a critical look at the duration and (geographical) scope. To give you an indication: it follows from current case law that, in general, a relationship clause for a term of more than two years will not last. With regard to the (geographical) scope of the relationship clause, it follows from the current case law that this scope should generally be related to the area in which an organisation is active. However, every situation is different, so we recommend seeking advice from a legal specialist.

Also allowed in case of a temporary contract?

The basic principle is that a relationship clause, just like a non-competition clause, is not permitted in the case of a fixed-term employment contract. However, there is an exception for cases in which the non-competition clause is necessary for an employer in the context of important business or service interests. The concrete nature of these interests must always be justified in a temporary contract. Without this justification, the relationship clause in a temporary contract is not valid (null and void) anyway. Even if a statement of reasons is included, a judge may still decide to nullify the relationship clause. We therefore advise you to always consult a legal specialist for the formulation of the justification.

Contact us

As you have read above, it is important to be critical when drawing up or accepting a relationship clause. We at Legal Q assist employers and employees with appropriate advice. Feel free to contact us for more information. We are at your service.

Specialist relationship clause

A well formulated relationship clause ensures clarity for both parties and avoids surprises afterwards.
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Lawyer relationship clause

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