Basic Confidentiality Agreements for Employees

by Ruth Mayhew; Updated September 26, 2017

Confidentiality agreements protect the interests of employers and are strongly recommended in a number of occupations that require employees to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information and data to which they have access. It's common for employers to require signed confidentiality agreements whenever an employee starts a new job or receives a promotion to a higher level job with greater access to confidential materials. Confidentiality is important in certain positions and levels of employment where the risk of leaking information could result in substantial damage to the organization's reputation and profitability.

Human Resources Staff

People who work in human resources positions are entrusted with an enormous amount of information concerning job applicants and current and former employees. Employee information includes Social Security and employment eligibility documents, personal contact information and medical information. Recruiters and employment specialists have access to private data concerning employee work and salary history, as well as information on applicant references and financial information, in companies where background checks are required for employment.

Compensation managers may be involved in strategic compensation planning, which should also be kept under wraps. Compensation and benefits specialists should be required to maintain confidentiality about salaries, wages and bonuses. In the human resources field, it's widely accepted that all human resources employees must adhere to confidentiality measures. However, a signed confidentiality agreement is also required. It proves the staff member acknowledges and fully understands the extent to which confidentiality should be maintained as well as the ramifications for disclosing confidential employee information.

IT Staff

Employees in your information technology (IT) area are privy to unlimited information sources; therefore, confidentiality is a must for IT workers. Based on their position within the company and level of technical expertise, IT workers can access company financial records, compensation data and network security drives. It’s natural to expect IT staff to adhere to rules about confidentiality and to maintain confidence throughout their tenure and beyond.

Confidentiality agreements for IT employees can be complex because they require specialized knowledge of the field. These confidentiality agreements must include verbiage that describes the confidential nature of data, as well as all the means through which IT employees can access data. A confidentiality agreement for an IT employee is, ideally, constructed by someone with in-depth knowledge of how IT processes enable employee access to data and how to modify and reconfigure both data and systems.

Executive Staff

Like IT employees, company executives have access to information by virtue of their job duties and the authority given to them in their roles within the company. An executive can request information from an employee in any department and receive it without question. Company executives also have access to information about strategic planning and organizational change, which is why many executive employment agreements contain a confidentiality clause. An executive-level confidentiality clause also prohibits highly compensated and powerful executives from engaging in actions and behavior that could affect the business standards, practices and reputation of an organization. For publicly traded companies, this type of confidentiality clause is especially important given the impact an executive decision could have on the company’s share value, worth and overall success.

Research and Development Staff

Confidentiality pertaining to research, product development and other proprietary information is expected from research and development employees and engineers, as well as sales and marketing personnel. For some employers, the organization’s success is built upon the ability to launch new products and services before a competitor can reach the desired market. Confidentiality agreements for staff in positions directly or indirectly related to business competition protect company assets. They also discourage employees from working on clandestine projects or collaborating with competitors for personal gain.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.