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Your assets are everything to your business, and that includes your information. It's important to keep sensitive business and client data confidential but also make sure the people who need access to it have it. That's where a confidentiality agreement comes in handy.
What is a confidentiality policy?
A confidentiality policy is a legally binding contract between two or more parties (usually an employer and employee) that forms an essential part of a company's HR and employment practices. The document sets out the responsibilities and obligations an employee must follow when dealing with confidential business information. This includes establishing the clear roles, responsibilities, and guidelines for safeguarding confidential information and intellectual property.
Download this template at Lawpath
When should I use a confidentiality policy?
A company should use a privacy and confidentiality policy if employees have access to sensitive business information and intellectual property that need to be protected. The document is also useful for companies that want to clearly inform their employees about their obligations and duties when dealing with private business information.
In a business setting, confidential information often refers to the following:
- Client information
- Intellectual property
- Marketing strategies
- Business operations
- Product details
- Proprietary technology
- Accounting information
What does a confidentiality policy include?
A confidentiality policy forms an important pillar of a company's HR practices. Usually, it includes the following:
- Policy brief and purpose
- Scope (who the policy applies to)
- List of what is considered confidential information
- Employee guidelines for handling confidential information (dos and don'ts)
- Confidentiality measures
- Exceptions (conditions where confidential information needs to be disclosed)
- Disciplinary measures (what happens if someone violates the confidentiality policy)
Confidentiality policy vs. non-disclosure agreement
A confidentiality policy is used when a company wants to maintain a high degree of secrecy about its business practices, intellectual property, or other sensitive information. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is similar to a confidentiality policy but generally applies to third parties, such as vendors, suppliers, customers, or potential investors. In this case, an NDA is an agreement between parties that no confidential information will be used for any reason other than what is stipulated in the document.
It's important to note that, in many cases, a confidentiality policy and NDA are used interchangeably.
How effective is a confidentiality policy?
A confidentiality policy is a legally binding document, which means it is an effective tool in protecting sensitive business information. Employees who sign the confidentiality policy and later violate it can face disciplinary and, possibly, legal action. If an employee is found to have breached the confidentiality agreement, the business owner may seek legal remedies such as a court injunction requiring the employee to refrain from spreading information or even damages in the form of monetary compensation.
However, depending on the nature of your business, a confidentiality agreement may be difficult to enforce in certain situations. In those circumstances, legal professionals can advise on the best course of action.
Do I need a lawyer to write my confidentiality policy?
With so many templates available online, it's relatively easy to set up your own confidentiality policy. In many cases, a standard template should suffice in protecting your business' confidential information. That being said, it is highly recommended that you seek out legal professionals who can help you tailor your confidentiality policy. This is especially true if you are hiring a lot of employees or operate in an industry where intellectual property and trade secrets must be safeguarded.
Get access to customisable confidentiality policy templates online
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How do I write a confidentiality agreement?
The first step in setting up a privacy and confidentiality agreement is determining what type of information you need to protect. This will help you tailor the legal document and ensure that there are proper exceptions in place. From here, writing up a confidentiality agreement is straightforward:
- Define the terms of your privacy and confidentiality agreement
- Define the conditions where confidential information needs to be disclosed
- Define how disputes will be resolved
- Ensure that all parties sign the document
Where to get free legal documents and templates such as a confidentiality policy
There are many online templates that can help you get started with your confidentiality agreement. It is recommended that you seek out a template that is relevant to your country and jurisdiction. Here is a list of websites that allow you to view or download confidentiality policy templates for free:
- Lawpath. Lawpath is a legal website geared towards small businesses and entrepreneurs. It provides free templates, but users need to sign up for a plan to access customisation options.
- Law Depot. With Law Depot, you can browse several confidentiality policy templates and download them straight to your computer.
- LegalVision. For a monthly membership fee of $199, LegalVision offers a wide variety of customisable legal documents, including privacy and confidentiality policies.
- Legal Zebra. With Legal Zebra, users can download a confidentiality policy and fill in the blanks for $27.
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