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Intellectual Property

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2010 6:08 am    Post subject: Intellectual Property Reply with quote

Hi I wonder if anybody can offer me some advice/support please.

Two years ago I took on additional role at work which was not incorporated into my Job Description. At the time I was employed by a charity organisation working in partnership with the council. In autumn last year employees were transferred over to the council under TUPE arrangements.

Prior to the transfer I did some work in the evening at home on my own pc. I wasn't asked to do this, and again it wasn't in my Job Description. I did the work to help me to carry out the role that I had been asked to start doing (at no additional pay of course Smile ).

Earlier this year a new role was created in our team although this job didn't need to be created as I was already doing a good deal of the work. Anyway, even though a panel had already determined that I should be given the new role as a natural career progression, the council decided to advertise it. Needless to say I didn't get the job (despite my already doing it exceptionally well).

now they are asking me to hand over all the work I have done over the past six years to help this new person out. They have demanded that I hand over the work that I did at home as detailed above, and are quoting their intellectual property policy. I realise that it says "in the course of employment" etc, but I have to ask how is the course of employment defined (bearing in mind I was employed by the charity when I did the work) and as they haven't complied with their policies, why should I?

Many thanks for any help.

Best wishes
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2010 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's hard to give you specific advice on this without seeing the various contracts of employment etc you had with the 2 different employers, and having more specific details of the work you did which you say was outside your job description. Clearly there will be a boundary between what you did off your own bat and what was required of you in the normal course of employment, but it's not an easy matter to define the boundary exactly. For instance your job description might say you are responsible for regulating expenditure on stationery, and you decide to build a spreadsheet in your spare time to help you. I think in most instances this would be seen as 'part' of the job. However if you were responsible for running the stationery, but in your spare time you devised an advertising campaign for the charity which was very successful in bringing in new donations, that might well be seen as outside your job description. As I think you are already aware, you would own the copyright in any creative work that you did wholly outside your employment, subject to any contractual limitations.
I suspect that while you were with the charity you either did not have a contract or if so, it was possibly generic, and that the general attitude amongst the staff was more relaxed about who did what. On the other hand public bodies such as local councils can be remarkably hidebound and dominated by job descriptions. The TUPE regulations say that employees should transfer to the new organisation under the same terms and conditons (except for occupational pension rights) as their old employment, and that if it is necessary to vary these terms, the employee must agree to them. So unless you agreed to the Council's intellectual property policy (assuming it was different to the policy of the Charity) the application of the council's rules now may be judged unfair. The Council are not allowed to vary your terms or conditions solely to bring you in line with those of the existing workforce of the council. And if your original terms and conditions (at the Charity) lead you to believe your extra work was outside your employment terms, I don't think the Council can apply their much more limiting rules retrospectively to what happened while you were working for the charity.
Clearly a lot depends on whether you are still employed by the council. If not. then they would have a very hard time trying to compel you to hand over the work; I assume therefore that you are still employed by them in some capacity and so you might be well advised to go to your union if you are a member, or the Citizen's Advice Bureau if not. There are lawyers who will advise your but at a cost, so I would try the union/CAB route first. If the council should threaten you with dismissal if you fail to hand over the work, you would probably have grounds to take them to an Employment Tribunal for unfair disnissal.
Since this is not really, at heart, a question of copyright, but rather one of employment contracts, I'm sorry not to be able to help you more.
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