UAE - Employees in the UAE can immediately be terminated without prior notice for revealing confidential information of the employer which leads to damage or loss of profit, or if the employee gains personal benefits from it, said Raka Roy, partner, Galadari Associates and Legal Consultants.
She said disclosure of workplace secrets can also attract at least one-year imprisonment along with a fine of a minimum of Dh20,000.
Disclosure of workplace secrets through IT systems is viewed strictly under the Cyber Crimes Law as the disclosure in such a way would result in detention for at least six months and/or a fine of at least Dh20,000 to Dh1 million.
Roy added that employees are prohibited from keeping any original or copied documents, or information belonging to their employer during their employment in their personal possession. Additionally, employees must return any work-related information and data to their employer at the end of their service.
“To further safeguard against the retention of confidential information, it is recommended that employers include a provision in their employment agreement which requires employees to return confidential information when their employment ends.”
No time limit to file a lawsuit
Under the Civil Transactions Law, employers have the right to file a civil lawsuit against an employee who violates their confidentiality obligations under their employment contract.
“This can be done either during the employee's term of employment or within one year after the termination of their contract. However, there is no such time limit to initiate legal action in case an employee discloses the employer’s trade secret,” she said.
Companies take employees to court when the losses they suffered are quite high due to leaking secrets.
Raka Roy added that unintentional sharing of confidential data is more usual among employees.
“Intentional sharing can always backfire and have an extremely strong impact on the employees including a criminal complaint being filed against them.”
However, she advised firms to include a confidentiality clause in their employment agreements so that the employees are made aware that they must maintain the confidentiality of any workplace information and trade secrets.
“This benefits employees as they are made aware of the extent of their liability towards maintaining confidentiality,” she said.
What is confidential information?
In UAE law, there is no precise definition for the term "confidential information". However, any information, data, industrial or commercial secrets that an employee can access due to their job are considered confidential information. Employers are entitled to safeguard any information that is relevant to their business, such as trade secrets and information concerning third parties they engage with, including clients, vendors, and suppliers.
Information related to the employee's work during their employment, as well as information that they have access to in their workplace, is considered confidential. If a dispute arises as to whether certain information is subject to confidentiality obligations, the employer must bear the responsibility of proving ownership of that information.
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