Can You Keep It Confidential…?​

Possibly not is the verdict from a recent survey carried out by MeetingRooms.com. It found that employees across the UK were guilty of spilling their employer’s secrets with Londoners being the worst offenders.

Of those surveyed in London, 47% reported overhearing a private business conversation in a public place with the highest percentage (18%) taking place in coffee shops and restaurants.

The implications for employers

In a nutshell, careless talk can be extremely damaging to a business and cause huge financial loss and/or professional embarrassment.

An example of this was shown earlier this year when a secret plan to close two NHS hospitals in London and Surrey and open a new “super-hospital” was revealed by management consultants on a conference call on a busy commuter train. The conversation was overheard by a BBC London reporter and quickly made headlines.

The leak proved embarrassing not only for the NHS Trusts concerned (who had only very recently reassured the public that there were no plans to close services at either site in the next few years) but also for the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who was forced to issue an emergency press release assuring the public that the Conservative party opposed such an idea.

The implications for employees

It is not just businesses that can find themselves in hot water. Employees too can find themselves in trouble if their employer becomes aware that they have disclosed confidential information.

For most employers, unauthorised disclosure of its confidential information is a serious disciplinary matter. It can even amount to gross misconduct depending on what is disclosed and in what circumstances.

Furthermore, such disclosures can have even deeper ramifications for those working in regulated professions. If the disclosures call into question the individual’s character, judgment or integrity they may also find themselves in trouble with the relevant regulator.

So next time you want to talk shop over a cup of coffee, perhaps think twice about who may be listening!

Rachel Hearn is a solicitor at leading senior executive employment law firm BDBF.