Canada: Data Security & Employee Turnover: How To Protect Your Data When Employees Leave

Employee turnover is an unavoidable reality for nearly all businesses. In addition to creating a number of financial and logistical difficulties, employee turnover also raises a number data security issues. Chief among these issues is data protection upon employee departure. Unfortunately, it has become common practice for employees to take sensitive and confidential corporate data with them when leaving an employer. A recent white paper published by Osterman Research (the "Paper") highlights this problem and presents solutions for employers seeking to mitigate the risks of data security when employees leave.

According to the Paper, 87% of employees surveyed by Biscom in late 2015 admitted that when they left a company, they took with them data they created during the course of their employment. A further 28% of those employees admitted to taking data created by others upon departure.

Data theft can damage an organization in a number of ways. It can harm the company's competitive position and, as a result, have a direct negative impact on revenue. Further, data theft can place a company at risk of regulatory violation. Failing to protect sensitive customer information, for example, can put a company in breach of applicable privacy laws. Ultimately, the company may decide to pursue legal action against the former employee, a costly and unwanted exercise for everyone involved.

Employees Leave (It's a Fact)

According to the Paper, the typical organization in the United States can expect up to 24% of its employees to leave each year. As of January 2016, the average term of employment for US-based employees was a mere 4.2 years, down from 4.6 years as reported in 2014. This trend will likely be exacerbated as Millennials, who change jobs approximately every two years, continue to occupy a greater proportion of the workforce.

In order to keep up with these trends and the data security challenges they present, companies need to understand employee behaviours and formulate proactive data protection strategies.

Why Are Employees Taking Data When They Leave?

In many cases, employees inadvertently take corporate information with them when they leave a company. In offices that allow employees to work remotely, many use their own devices and routinely store corporate data on portable devices such as USBs, laptops and smartphones. Cloud storage platforms are also commonly used, many with automatic back-up capabilities that operate in the background. Upon departure, unless proper corporate policies and procedures are in place, the employee (and the company) may not even be aware that sensitive and confidential data remains in his or her possession.

In other cases, the employee may be under the false impression that the data belongs to him or her. Employees may therefore feel justified in taking the data with them when they leave. There are also circumstances in which employees take corporate data with more malicious intentions. The employee may be motivated by revenge or seeking to gain an advantage with a new employer. Regardless of motive, this behaviour puts a substantial amount of valuable corporate data at risk.

Best Practices

Management and anyone else charged with the company's data security mandate should be sensitive to employee behaviours in order to prevent data theft before it occurs. The Paper identifies a number of warning signs, including:

  • Spikes in data transfers (i.e. to the cloud, a USB, etc.)
  • Fluctuations in email activity
  • Unusual timing for accessing documents or files (i.e. after normal business hours)

Staying alert to these behaviours can prevent potentially damaging results. Companies should consider adopting policies to monitor and audit certain employee behavior, such as the usage of company computers. Further, the Paper suggests that the most effective policies and procedures will:

  • Ensure ongoing visibility of sensitive corporate data
  • Limit employee access to certain content (determined by their role)
  • Encrypt data in-transit, at-rest and in-use
  • Require sufficient authentication for access to sensitive content
  • Properly manage and monitor mobile devices (with remote access capabilities)
  • Adopt an effective data back-up policy

Implementing an employee departure checklist can also help protect vulnerable data during the departure process. The Paper provides a checklist addressing the employee's physical and account-related activities, as well as backup, archiving and content management strategies.

Proper training will ensure that all employees, including management, have a thorough understanding of company policies and procedures and are aware of how sensitive data and information should be dealt with at all stages of the employment relationship.

For new hires, companies might consider including standard confidentiality provisions in employment contracts. Such provisions should use clear and unambiguous language, and should be properly explained to new employees upon hiring. Obtaining expert legal advice in drafting such agreements will ensure their efficacy.

Aird & Berlis LLP's privacy and data security experts and employment lawyers can provide support and legal guidance to help your organization implement these best practices to protect your organization's data.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions