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Employment lawyers at the heart of colliding forces in the workplace

By Dr David Cowan

26 November 2018 at 07:04 BST

With Ireland at the tipping point of both Brexit and the digital economy, employment lawyers needed to tackle raft of transformational issues.


Barristers, the Employment Bar Association (EBA) and ‘all employment lawyers have a key role in Ireland’s transition to the digital economy and as a bridge to the workplace in the future,’ according to one of Ireland’s top employment lawyers Cliona Kimber SC, chairperson of the EBA, speaking at the opening of the EBA’s annual conference.

Colliding forces

Brexit, digital transformation and an acute need for more workers, espcially in construction, from abroad framed discussions at the EBA conference in Dublin. Ms Kimber SC said Ireland is at a tipping point in the labour market creating many challenges for the country’s employment lawyers. Responding to the potential conflicts between automation and jobs, Ms Kimber said ‘employees may be resisting, employers may be over enthusiastic or heavy-handed in driving the future agenda. Increased litigation and legal challenges are to be expected which expert employment barristers have the skills to sort.’ Enticing women back to work, diversity in the workplace, flexible working patterns, working past retirement and foreign workers means that ‘in navigating and managing the workplace, the workplace diversity equality law and equality lawyers will come to the fore. As a result of these colliding forces, expert employment lawyers will be essential to give independent advice, negotiate and mediate when problems arises, and prosecute or defend when legal claims arise.’

Hot topics

The conference sessions were chaired by Regina Doherty, TD, minister for employment affairs & social protection and the hon ms justice Caroline Costello. The agenda covered a range of hot topics for employment practitioners currently. Mary Paula Guinness BL tackled managing employment law disputes, including using garden leave. Owen Keany assessed settlement agreements contracts. Helen Callanan SC reviewed recent European case law on discrimination on grounds of religion, while Rosemary Mallon BL turned her attention to the issue of medical examinations of employees, often a problematic cause for dismissal. Tom Mallon BL discussed the practical issues of protected disclosures. Marcus Dowling BL pondered the conundrum of two bites at the cherry caused by parallel proceedings in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and High Court. Oisin Quinn SC closed off proceedings by reflecting on how to close the gender pay gap.


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