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  2. Leading individuals
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Who Represents Who

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A&L Goodbody’s employment team attracts praise for its ‘exceptional service, timely responses’ and for its ‘wealth of experience’. The group represents employers from a range of sectors, including manufacturing, public utilities and technology, on contentious and non-contentious employment matters. Recent highlights include successfully defending McCloskey International against claims for breach of restrictive covenants made by a competitor company after a senior director transferred to McCloskey. On the non-contentious side, the team advised food packagers Huhtamaki on the employment aspects of its £80m acquisition of Delta Print & Packaging. In another key matter, the firm is advising Tourism NI on the potential alteration of pay grades following a dictate received from the Department of Finance and Personnel. Gareth Walls leads the team and is highlighted for his ‘professional approach and decisiveness, with an unparalleled customer focus’. Senior associate Shirley Blair is recommended for employment litigation and restrictive covenant matters.

Arthur Cox Belfast’s ‘excellent’ employment practice handles contentious and non-contentious employment matters for employers. Key clients include distribution company Bunzl, which the team advises on a range of contentious and non-contentious matters, including internal investigations, disability issues and capability dismissals; most recently the firm advised the client on the employment aspects of its acquisition of Kingsbury Packaging (Limavady) through a subsidiary. Rosemary Lundy leads the team and is best known for her litigation expertise; Lundy is currently leading the team representing global catering company Sodexo before the Industrial Tribunal in a number of issues, including one involving allegations of race discrimination. Another key figure for contentious matters is Emma-Jane Flannery who was promoted to partner in April 2016 and attracts praise for her ‘professional approach, experience and competence; she is particularly adept at building trust and confidence in her clients’. Other clients include Firmus Energy, which the firm assisted with the review of its directors’ contracts and on directors’ duties; and global pharmaceutical company Actavis, which the firm advises on a range of employment issues, from general advisory matters to complex employment claims.

Carson McDowell’s ‘quality of advice and turnaround times are excellent’. The team handles a broad range of matters, from discrimination and equality claims, to advisory and regulatory work, for a client base that includes a number of Northern Ireland’s leading companies as well as international companies from a range of sectors, including finance, technology and logistics. The Royal Mail Group is a longstanding client, which the firm successfully defended in a number of claims concerning unfair dismissal, breach of contract and harassment. In another key highlight, the firm acted for Chain Reaction Cycles on the employment structuring issues arising from its merger with Bridgepoint-owned Wiggle, which involved a large-scale redundancy process. Practice head Orlagh O’Neill is highly regarded for her litigation expertise and ‘possesses real gravitas; she has great knowledge, an ability to listen and a willingness to go the extra mile’. Rachel Penny is ‘highly regarded for her knowledge and responsiveness’ and is best known for her work in TUPE matters, redundancies and reorganisations. Associate Sarah Cochrane is well versed in corporate employment matters and restructuring.

Employment boutique Jones Cassidy Brett Solicitors has a longstanding reputation for its work across the public and private sectors. The group primarily acts for employers in restructurings and large-scale disputes, but also works for high-profile individuals, including chief executives and members of the judiciary, in contentious matters. Beverley Jones is particularly well known for her equal pay experience and has an established public sector client base, including a number of local councils. Senior Partner Adam Brett has particular expertise in TUPE claims; Brett has been advising a large call centre on frequent TUPE and SPC transfers. Alison Collins is also recommended for employment policies and disciplinary proceedings, and Fiona Cassidy for discrimination matters.

Tughans’ employment group has ‘an excellent ability to clearly explain legal complexities so they can be understood in a commercial context’. The firm acts for employers in a range of industries, including finance, infrastructure and manufacturing. The team has been highly active on the employment aspects arising from multimillion-pound mergers and acquisitions; key 2016 mandates include advising DELT Print & Packaging on its sale to Huhtamaki, advising Label One Limited on its sale to CCL, and advising M&M Contractors (Europe) Limited on its acquisition of the business and assets of Mascott Construction in administration. Anna Beggan leads the team, which has ‘depth of knowledge and experience, with excellent attention to detail’. She is particularly experienced with class action and TUPE matters, as well as M&A; she has been handling a number of harassment and discrimination claims before the Industrial Tribunal. Patricia Rooney is a ‘knowledgeable and pragmatic practitioner’ and has been handling union-backed class actions and significant unfair dismissal claims.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s ‘excellent and informed’ practice houses a number of ‘assured, easy to understand and practical’ employment lawyers. Clients include private and public clients such as leading supermarket chains and numerous third-sector entities. Public sector related disputes and structuring issues are a key aspect of the practice, where it acts for county councils, educational bodies and research institutes. 2016 mandates included defending a government research body in numerous discrimination claims, as well as defending clients in redundancy and unfair dismissal claims. Michael Black leads the team and is praised for his ‘supportive approach, particularly in challenging situations’. Associate Aisling Byrne is another key name.

Elliott Duffy Garrett attracts praise for its ‘excellent service, prompt response times and polite and processional practitioners’. The team represents an array of clients, from housing, governmental and educational sector entities, to high-profile individuals. Trade Union and industrial relations cases are also an area of expertise; the team has acted on several challenges to industrial action. The practice also handles large-scale disputes for third-sector clients. Practice head Adrienne Brock attracts praise for being ‘one of the top employment lawyers in Northern Ireland; quick to grasp the problem and solve it’. ‘Accessible and extremely knowledgeable’ associate Chiara Hutton is well versed in both corporate support and industrial tribunal cases. The ‘tenacious and extremely hardworking’ Julie Anne Clarke has been handling TUPE and discrimination matters.

Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP’s employment team provides ‘an excellent and client-focused service’ to private-sector employers and handles major tribunal claims and non-contentious restructuring matters. In a key mandate, the team assisted accountancy firm Baker Tilly Mooney Moore with the restructuring of the new Northern Ireland Hospice, which included advising on the redundancy process to enable the streamlined management function to operate. On the contentious side, the firm is defending Aquilant Medical in a claim of discrimination on the basis of race, sex and political opinion, which arose from the Brexit vote. Paul Gillen leads the team, which includes associate Leeanne Armstrong.

John McKee Solicitors represents a range of corporates and banks in employment disputes. Andrea McCann leads the team and has advised on Industrial Tribunal claims concerning discrimination, unfair dismissal and TUPE issues. McCann also advises on employment issues arising from M&A transactions.

McCartan Turkington Breen’s employment practice has a contentious focus and acts for employees in a range of disputes. Past highlights have included representing trade union NIPSA in the Court of Appeal case Patterson v Castlereagh, which involved the inclusion of voluntary overtime payments in employers’ calculation of their employees’ holiday pay. The firm has also acted for police officers in numerous cases involving political discrimination and wage disputes. John McShane is the key partner.

Millar McCall Wylie LLP’s employment team is well versed in contentious matters but also advises companies on their entry into the Northern Ireland market and on day-to-day employment issues arising from their Northern Ireland operations. Highlights included advising Learning Pool Limited on TUPE matters following the acquisition of the business, including drafting settlement agreements for directors not transferring over with the acquisition. On the contentious side Jan Cunningham defended Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council in a claim alleging that the claimant was not appointed to a position with the client’s organisation due to the claimant’s age. In another key matter, Kevin Gallagher and Louise McNally acted for a company director before the Industrial Tribunal in a dispute concerning whether the payment of a dividend was incompatible with the status of an employee.

Mills Selig’s employment team focuses on representing employers in tribunal cases; in 2015 the group represented Dunnes Stores in an unfair dismissal and age discrimination case. Kiera Lee heads the practice and is well versed in TUPE issues.

Rosemary Connolly at Rosemary Connolly Solicitors Limited is a highly regarded employment law practitioner and represents both public bodies, individual claimants and corporates in a range of claims; discrimination and equal pay are the key areas.

Thompsons NI Solicitors’s client base primarily comprises trade unions and the team acts for individual employees in a range of claims. Discrimination and equal pay claims are a central area of expertise and associate Paul Upson and George Kilpatrick handle numerous sex, maternity and political discrimination cases. John O’Neill retired in December 2016.

Worthingtons’ employment practice is adept with handling employment structuring work arising from mergers and acquisitions, and defends employers in industrial tribunal claims. Social housing is a particular area of expertise; recent mandates include advising Fold Housing Association on the employment aspects of its merger with Helm Housing Association which required considerable TUPE advice. Maxine Orr heads the team and successfully defended Derry City and Strabane District Council in a group action which challenged the reorganisation of pay and rewards for local government employees. Louise McAloon is another key name and is highly regarded for her work for local councils and financial groups.

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Legal Developments in Northern Ireland for Human resources

  • Companies should plan now to minimise their pension protection levy

    The amount that pension schemes have to pay to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) for the year 2006/07 may have increased by as much as five times the previous year's levy. Employers who ultimately bear the cost of many pension schemes will need to make plans now to ensure the levy payable for the year 2008/09 is kept to a minimum.
    - Stephenson Harwood

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