EMPLOYMENT TEAM OF THE YEAR

Sponsored by

Tanfield+Chambers

 

Employment

 

WINNER: Leigh Day/Outer Temple Chambers

It In October last year, the Supreme Court handed down a truly landmark decision which broke the boundaries of employment and equal pay law. Working on a no-win, no-fee basis, a team led by Leigh Day partner Chris Benson and Outer Temple's Andrew Short QC secured a landmark win for 174 former Birmingham City Council workers when the court upheld lower courts' rulings that equal pay claims could be heard in the courts as well as employment tribunals. Due to the six-year time limit for contractual claims in the courts – much longer than the six months given for tribunal claims – this opens the door to thousands more claims by underpaid workers. Leigh Day had to fight to find counsel willing to take on the case, with many turning it away. However Short agreed, and advised that the claim was kept simple to keep it in the courts.

Since the case was launched, Leigh Day has picked up thousands of other ex-local authority worker claimants in a similar situation to the Birmingham claimants and at last count, was handling cases for 7,500 women. It is also likely to prompt private sector claims, now the right to bring equal pay fights to the High Court has been confirmed. One of The Lawyer Awards judges said of this entry: “To have got to the ground-breaking position as they did would have taken real commitment and tenacity and real passion. It is this submission that demonstrates the real value of these awards.”

About Tanfield Chambers

Tanfield Chambers is delighted to be sponsoring Employment Team of the Year Award at The Lawyer Awards 2013 and to be associated with such high calibre recognition of excellence in a rapidly changing area of law.

Tanfield Chambers continues the tradition of employment expertise began by former head of chambers R J Harvey QC who gave his name to Harvey on Industrial Relations and Employment Law. Our Employment Team is committed to providing a cost efficient service based on approachability, client care and high-quality advice and representation across all areas of employment law.

Congratulations to all of the finalists for the Employment Team of the Year Award; all have proven to be driven and focussed, and deserve recognition for achieving such high standards

Runner-up: Eversheds

A cPublic transport was a key concern prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games and for Eversheds, this fact brought about an instruction to help keep the capital's roads running. The firm was instructed by 21 London bus operators to challenge strike action brought by union Unite, in connection with a demand for a £500 bonus for members which the operators had refused to pay. Eversheds co-ordinated 10 separate injunction applications on behalf of operators. The first three went to court in late June 2012, just weeks before the Olympics were due to start, and were granted by Mr Justice Supperstone. The remaining seven applications were settled at the doors of the court, and all the strikes were cancelled. A team of 10 Eversheds lawyers across four offices, led by partner Marc Meryon and senior associate Holly Short, worked on the injunctions with counsel support from Littleton Chambers' Andrew Stafford QC, Andrew Clarke QC and Craig Rajpoul and Devereux Chambers' Andrew Burns. Their work ensured that millions of people's Olympics journeys were unaffected by industrial action.

3RD: Fox Williams

When Société Générale investment banker Raphael Geys was dismissed by the bank at the end of 2007, he turned to Fox Williams – his legal advisers since 1998 – to fight his case. Last year, in the Supreme Court, Geys succeeded in establishing his right to a €12.5m termination payment with a 4:1 majority upholding his appeal. Fox Williams partner Tom Custance, aided by associate Evie Meleagros, handled the case throughout alongside One Essex Court counsel David Cavender QC and Abra Bompas. Custance discounted his hourly rate to deal with the case and Cavender held his fees at a senior junior level after taking silk in 2010.

The case established that a repudiatory breach of an employment contract entitles the innocent party to choose whether to accept the breach or to keep the contract running, clarifying the law over employment contracts. It should hopefully encourage employers to fulfil their duties when dismissing employees. Judges praised Fox Williams' efforts, with one saying: “What came through in the submission was that the client mattered.”