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28 Jun 2024

Employment Agreements in India – Clauses, Enforceability, Negotiability

28 Jun 2024
Employment Agreements in India - Clauses, Enforceability, Negotiability

Employment Agreements Clauses

In employment agreements in India, certain clauses often give rise to more debate or controversy compared to others. These contentious clauses, their significance, and aspects of their enforceability and negotiability are as follows:

  • Non-Compete and Non-Solicitation:
    • Importance: Restricts employees from working with competitors or soliciting clients or other employees after leaving the company. This helps employers safeguard their trade secrets and customer relationships.
    • Enforceability: Non-solicit clauses are generally valid. However non-compete clauses are generally not enforceable post-termination of employment, except in special circumstances with limited scope and duration.
    • Negotiability: Scope and duration can sometimes be negotiated.
  • Confidentiality:
    • Importance: Ensures protection of sensitive business information.
    • Enforceability: Strongly upheld, often extending beyond the employment tenure.
    • Negotiability: Generally non-negotiable due to its critical nature for safeguarding business interests.
  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR):
    • Importance: If done correctly, automatically transfers rights of employee inventions created during  employment to the employer.
    • Enforceability: Widely enforced, especially in roles involving research and development.
    • Negotiability: Typically not negotiable.
  • Termination Clauses:
    • Importance: Defines conditions for ending employment, either ‘at-will’, for cause, or by resignation.
    • Enforceability: Enforceable when compliant with labor laws (such as the reason for termination).
    • Negotiability: Limited, as it usually aligns with statutory requirements.
  • Probationary Period:
    • Importance: Establishes a trial period to evaluate the employee’s suitability.
    • Enforceability: Standard practice, conditions usually enforced as stated.
    • Negotiability: Duration or terms may be negotiable.
  • Salary and Compensation:
    • Importance: Details salary, bonuses, and other benefits.
    • Enforceability: Highly enforceable as per agreed terms.
    • Negotiability: Often negotiable, dependent on the role and candidate’s experience.
  • Working Hours and Leave:
    • Importance: Specifies expected working hours, workdays, and leave entitlements.
    • Enforceability: Generally enforceable within labor law guidelines.
    • Negotiability: Limited, generally adheres to company policy.
  • Appointment and Position:
    • Importance: Specifies role, designation, and key responsibilities.
    • Enforceability: Generally binding but subject to changes in organizational structure.
    • Negotiability: Limited, often aligned with organizational needs.
  • Dispute Resolution:
    • Importance: Outlines how employment disputes will be resolved.
    • Enforceability: Generally upheld, often includes arbitration clauses.
    • Negotiability: May be negotiable but usually follows standard legal practices.
  • Governing Law and Jurisdiction:
    • Importance: Indicates the legal jurisdiction and laws governing the agreement.
    • Enforceability: Standard and enforceable.
    • Negotiability: Typically non-negotiable, aligns with the company’s operational jurisdiction.

 

In these agreements, the most contentious clauses tend to be those that limit future employment opportunities (non-compete and non-solicitation) and protect business secrets (confidentiality and IPR). While clauses like salary and probation can be more open to negotiation, those related to legal compliance and the company’s proprietary rights are usually firmly set.

Employment Agreements Importance

  • Protecting Business Interests: These clauses are crucial for employers to safeguard their business interests, including trade secrets, customer relationships, and market position.
  • Restricting Future Employment: Non-Compete clauses prevent employees from joining competitors or starting a competing business for a specified period post-employment.
  • Preventing Talent Poaching: Non-Solicitation clauses help companies prevent ex-employees from poaching their clients and current employees.

Employment Agreements Enforceability

  • Reasonableness of Terms: The Indian Contract Act, 1872, governs these clauses. A Non-Compete clause is generally not enforceable post-termination of employment if it is overly restrictive or unreasonable in terms of duration, geographic scope, and the nature of restrictions.
  • During Employment: However, during the term of employment, such restrictions are usually considered reasonable and enforceable.
  • Judicial Interpretation: Courts in India have often held that any clause which ‘restrains trade’ is void to the extent of the restraint, post-termination of employment, as per Section 27 of the Indian Contract Act. However, a balance is sought between the employee’s right to earn a livelihood and the employer’s right to protect its interests.

Employment Agreements Negotiability

  • Depends on Bargaining Power: The scope for negotiation often depends on the employee’s bargaining power, which varies based on seniority, uniqueness of skills, and market demand.
  • Customization for High-Value Employees: For senior-level employees or those with access to sensitive information, these clauses are often tailored more specifically and may involve negotiations.
  • Clarity and Fairness: Prospective employees can negotiate for clarity, a reasonable duration, and a specific scope to ensure the clauses are fair and not overly burdensome.
  • Compensation in Lieu of Restrictions: Sometimes, negotiations can include compensation for the period during which the employee is restricted from certain activities post-termination.

Disclaimer:

The content of this article is for information purpose only and does not constitute advice or a legal opinion and are personal views of the author. It is based upon relevant law and/or facts available at that point of time and prepared with due accuracy & reliability. Readers are requested to check and refer to relevant provisions of statute, latest judicial pronouncements, circulars, clarifications etc. before acting on the basis of the above write up. The possibility of other views on the subject matter cannot be ruled out. By the use of the said information, you agree that the Author / Treelife is not responsible or liable in any manner for the authenticity, accuracy, completeness, errors or any kind of omissions in this piece of information for any action taken thereof.

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