Employment Law

The Employment Law Team at Carson McDowell is widely recognised as one of the leading employment teams in Northern Ireland. Given the backgrounds of its two partners, Orlagh O’Neill and Rachel Penny, Carson McDowell is one of the only firms in Northern Ireland that can claim genuine expertise in the entire spectrum of employment law. Our clients, who span the private, public and voluntary sectors, tell us they value the quality and speed of our technical advice and our ability to provide strategic solutions which balance legal and commercial issues. Above all, they value the importance we place on investing time in getting to know our client’s business and building on personal relationships.

Orlagh has unrivalled expertise in Northern Ireland in terms of contentious employment law matters, and Rachel is an acknowledged expert in matters such as TUPE, large scale redundancy/re-organisation programmes. The team is best known for its impressive and ever expanding client list, its commercial and pragmatic lawyers and its ability to offer specialist contentious, non-contentious/advisory and ‘corporate’ employment law. Unsurprisingly, the employment team is ranked Tier one in the Legal 500 2018 and Band 1 in the Chambers Guide to the UK Profession 2019.

What we do:

• Drafting and advising on all aspects of the employment contract and associated employment policies including staff handbooks

• Employment litigation, spanning the defence and representation of employers at Industrial and Fair Employment Tribunals, as well as dealing with High Court breach of contract claims and injunctions

• Employment aspects of corporate restructuring, outsourcing and mergers

• Equality and fair employment advice, ranging from compliance with Northern Ireland’s unique equality legislation to defending equality claims

• Advising on the handling of grievance and other workplace investigations

• Industrial relations and trade union matters

• Performance- advising on performance, managing absence and misconduct

• Restrictive covenants and team moves

• Redundancy, reorganisations and changes to terms and conditions of employment

• Handling senior executive terminations, including drafting and negotiating compromise agreements

• TUPE

• Whistleblowing

• Advising on data protection, in particular the impact of GDPR on the employment relationship, employment records and employee monitoring

• Bespoke training, seminars and workshops on a wide range of employment issues

Rachel Penny is a well-respected practitioner who focuses her practice on advising clients during corporate transactions on any employment matters. Commentators appreciate her "combination of ability and interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence." Orlagh O’Neill who heads the practice, and specialises in advising schools and colleges on governance and employment matters, is considered to be "an excellent employment lawyer who gives very solid, calm, measured advice," and is praised for taking an "excellent strategic approach."

What Others Say About Us

Chambers and Partners UK 2019

What the team is known for

Market-leading employment team that provides a full and commercial service to an impressive clientele. Renowned for the strength of both its contentious and non-contentious work. Acts for regional and multinational clients from a range of sectors, including manufacturing, retail and travel. Recent activity has seen the team advise clients on discrimination and whistle-blowing claims.

Strengths

A client states that the team is "incredibly responsive, the personal service is great, and obviously the legal advice has been superb."

One client appreciates the team's "excellent strategic advice and depth of experience."

Work highlight

Advised J & E Davy in relation to its acquisition of the wealth management business carried on by Danske Bank in Northern Ireland including on the TUPE transfer of Danske's wealth management employees.

Notable practitioners

Orlagh O'Neill maintains an excellent reputation among peers and clients for her expertise in contentious employment advice. One client says that "she is an excellent employment lawyer who gives very solid, calm, measured advice," while another adds that she takes an "excellent strategic approach."

Rachel Penny is a well-respected practitioner who focuses her practice on advising clients during corporate transactions on any employment matters. Commentators appreciate her "combination of ability and interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence."

Chambers and Partners UK 2018

What the team is known for

Market-leading employment team that provides a full and commercial service to an impressive clientele. Renowned for the strength of both its contentious and non-contentious work. Acts for regional and multinational clients from a range of sectors, including manufacturing, retail and travel.

Strengths

One source is "very happy with the service received," with "good accessibility being a key positive factor."

Work highlights

Provided employment law advice to Royal Mail in Northern Ireland, recently defending claims of unfair dismissal, breach of contract and sexual harassment.

Defended a claim of race discrimination on behalf of Camden Group.

Significant clients

Santander, Translink, British Medical Association, Independent News & Media, Wright Group.

Notable practitioners

Head of department Orlagh O'Neill represents private and public sector clients in contentious employment matters. Sources say she "is always very clear with her advice" and "takes the time to find a solution that works."

Rachel Penny is experienced in a range of employment law matters, including disputes, TUPE, outsourcing and change programmes. She is described by commentators as "very experienced, efficient and pragmatic" and an "absolutely fantastic lawyer."

​Chambers and Partners UK 2017

What the team is known for

Market-leading employment team that provides a full and commercial service to an impressive clientele. Renowned for the strength of both its contentious and non-contentious work.

Strengths (Quotes mainly from clients)

"They are very easy to do business with and, in my view, the best in their field"

"The team as a whole are collaborative, precise and always think from our perspective."

Work highlights

Advised Celesio in relation to the acquisition of the majority of UDG's Irish wholesale and supply chain businesses.

Notable practitioners

Sources say Orlagh O'Neill is "the single most impressive employment lawyer in Northern Ireland," stating that she is "completely unflappable," "commercially aware" and has a "wealth of knowledge." She heads the practice and specialises in representing significant public and private sector clients in tribunal conflicts.

Rachel Penny focuses on handling corporate employment matters, including TUPE and is described as "highly intelligent and a clear and lucid thinker, with a very pleasant and client-friendly manner."

Significant clients

Royal Mail, Santander, Vinci Energies, Translink, Wright Group.

The Legal 500 2018

What the team is known for

Carson McDowell’s employment practice provides an ‘excellent service’ across a wide spectrum of matters, including discrimination and equality claims, TUPE issues, unfair dismissal claims and advisory and regulatory work. The client base includes well-known Northern Ireland-based companies as well as international entities from a range of sectors, including logistics, finance, food production, technology and transportation.

Strengths

Litigation expert Orlagh O'Neill leads the ‘highly responsive and knowledgeable’ team. Rachel Penny is ‘extremely knowledgeable, clever, practical and approachable’ and is noted for her expertise in TUPE matters, redundancies and reorganisations. Associate Sarah Cochrane has notable experience in corporate employment matters.

Work highlights

Successfully defended key client Royal Mail Group in a number of claims concerning unfair dismissal, discrimination, breach of contract and harassment.

Notable practitioners

Orlagh O'Neill and Rachel Penny.

Significant Clients

Electoral Office for Northern Ireland, Ulster University and Xilinx.

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