Can I use old work contacts for my own business?

Prior to having my child I worked for a business agency for over 10 years, but was denied flexible/part-time hours request after my maternity leave and was effectively forced to resign. I became a stay at home mum, but now I’d like to work for myself and set up my own consultancy. Am I legally prevented from getting in contact with some of my old work contacts, including clients? My contract had a six-months non-compete clause, but those six months have now passed.  Am I legally allowed to ‘reinstate’ some of these contacts from memory? I never copied/took any sensitive information/contact details.

Woman in wheelchair working at laptop in kitchen


I understand that you previously worked for one employer for over 10 years and that now, over two years after your resignation, you would like to set up your own consultancy.

Your previous employer can protect its legitimate business interests through clauses in your previous contract of employment. This will be the starting point and I would advise you to review this carefully. I understand that you had a six-month non-compete, which you rightly say will have expired. Your contract may contain other restrictive covenants, although you may be able to challenge their enforceability if they are for a lengthy duration.

Your previous contract is also likely to contain protections regarding confidential information. I would advise you to check any relevant clauses very carefully as these are likely to last for an indefinite period of time and may cover the types of information that you hope to use in your new business. Outside of the contract of employment, only your previous employer’s “trade secrets” are capable of protection and this does not extend to the types of information that you carry away in your head after termination of employment.

I note that you also state that you were forced to resign due to the inflexibility of your previous employer. It is worth noting that where you resign due to a repudiatory breach of your contract, your employer cannot then enforce post-termination restrictions in your contract of employment.

*Helen Frankland assisted in answering this question.

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