In Ashcourt Rowan Financial Planning Ltd v Hall, the contract of a senior financial advisor purported to prevent him from "directly or indirectly being engaged or concerned in" any business or activity of a direct competitor for 12 months after termination. The covenant was ineffective because it was too broad – it did not make a sufficiently close connection between the employee's own work (advising clients) and the prohibited activity. It would have prevented him from working for a competitor in any role, precluding him from having a management role in a competitor, or taking a position in regulatory compliance, training or research, for example. There was no obvious justification for preventing him from working for a competing business in such roles; the employer therefore failed the test of showing that the covenant was no wider than was reasonably necessary to protect its legitimate interests.
Another problem with the clause was that it applied to any business or commercial activity the employee had been involved in at any time or in any way during the last 12 months of his employment, not just in his role as a senior financial advisor.
The other issue considered in this case was a provision in the contract which stated that any period spent by the employee on "garden leave" would be deducted from the period of the restriction in the covenant. Somewhat fortuitously for the employer, given the particular facts, the Court concluded that the employee was not on garden leave since he had still been carrying out the bulk of his regular duties during his notice period. The Court decided that "garden leave" was limited to a time when an employee is not required or allowed to do any work – an "ordinary connotation" that the expression has apparently had since it "became common currency after featuring in 'Yes, Prime Minister' in the 1980's"!