Breach of Confidence

Breach of Confidence

Social Origins and Modern Developments

Megan Richardson, Michael Bryan, Martin Vranken and Katy Barnett

This concise yet detailed book explores the historical foundations and modern developments of the ancient doctrine of breach of confidence. The authors show that despite its humble beginnings, stilted development and air of quaintness the doctrine has modern relevance and influence, its sense of ‘trust and confidence’ still resonating with the information society of today. Topical chapters include, ‘Inventing an equitable doctrine’, ‘Privacy and publicity in early Victorian Britain’, ‘Searching for balance in the employment relationship’, as well as many others.

Chapter 6: Searching for Balance in the Employment Relationship

Megan Richardson, Michael Bryan, Martin Vranken and Katy Barnett

Subjects: law - academic, information and media law, intellectual property law


That the main body of what we might call breach of confidence cases around the twentieth century’s World Wars were concerned with what is now called the employment relationship is a curious fact. These cases warrant a separate discussion of their own, for not only were they a distinct body of cases but the law of confidence had a particular operation in the employment setting especially as the law developed after the Second World War. In evaluating the case law, it is important to bear in mind that labour law, as one knows it today, was very much still in its infancy during the greater part of the period under review. As observed by Bob Hepple in 1986, contemporary labour law was barely half a century old.1 Certainly, the recognition of labour law as an academic discipline in its own right only occurred after the Second World War. Nevertheless, the cases discussed in this chapter reflect more the principles and policies of an embryonic employment law than breach of confidence in general – and by the end of the period it would already be evident that the law was developing its own special form. Where then did this ‘labour law’ come from? In the aftermath of World War Two a number of scholars on the Continent argued for an official recognition of the special position occupied by labour law vis-à-vis the general system of law. In 1945 Paul Durand wrote about the specificity of labour law (le particularisme du droit...

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