Recognised in the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners UK Directory 2021 for being "incisive and very able", Hilary is a Partner and heads up the North East Employment team.
She acts for a wide range of public and private sector clients, including registered social landlords, public bodies, commercial entities of all sizes, NHS Trusts, education establishments and high net worth individuals. This has given her a sound instinct for taking a practical approach in the advice she gives to clients, which focuses on achieving their commercial objectives rather than only black letter law.
Hilary advises on all aspects of employment law, from recruitment through to dismissal. Her practice includes advising on complex disciplinary and grievance matters, equality and diversity issues, and providing legal and tactical advice on handling issues of underperformance, absence and dismissals at all levels. She also advises on all aspects of reorganisations, including collective redundancies and restructuring as well as changing terms and conditions.
She has particular expertise advising and defending clients in relation to claims for discrimination, as well as defending mass equal pay claims.
Hilary regularly provides training to clients on a variety of employment issues, including discrimination and equal opportunities. She frequently coordinates and presents training sessions for HR teams and managers to help them to keep up to date with changes in the law. These training sessions have varied from regular employment law updates and alerter sessions on emerging issues, to masterclasses on complex areas of law and equal opportunities training sessions for employees.
Hilary co-chairs the firm's programme of services for in-house lawyers and those who procure legal services, known as Informed Counsel. Hilary has been instrumental in bringing the firm's in-house legal and HR clients events which go beyond a purely legal sphere, having chaired a session on "Working from Home With Children in the Pandemic" and a session entitled "Resilience Matters", about building resilience in children. She also appeared recently as one of the panel experts in an event on managing inter-generational diversity in the workplace, a subject about which she is passionate.
Examples of experience include:
- Acting for a nationwide utility company in the successful defence of a complex discrimination, unfair dismissal and whistleblowing claim, where the claim – valued at six figures - was dismissed in its entirety after a 10-day hearing
- Advising a retail client in relation to a restructuring programme and collective redundancies. She has assisted clients in negotiations with trade unions in relation to the implementation of changes to terms and conditions, collective agreements and managing industrial action
- Advising a national PLC property services business which operates a number of estate agency brands throughout the UK on the full range of day-to-day employment issues and defence of its Employment Tribunal claims. Amongst other things Hilary has advised on enforcement of restrictive covenants, securing undertakings from former employees to protect the business's interests; complex disciplinary proceedings and managing ill health absence in respect of various employees; and negotiating executive terminations. Hilary has also advised and represented the client in relation to a number of Employment Tribunal claims in both the Scottish and English Employment Tribunals. These have included claims for unfair dismissal, discrimination and whistleblowing, all of which have either been won, settled (on favourable terms for the client) or withdrawn
- Advising a further education college on the strategy for and the implementation of a widespread reorganisation, including complying with its collective consultation obligations and managing employees' expectations in order to achieve the process without any Employment Tribunal claims as a result
- Acting for a number of clients in relation to the drafting and enforcement of restrictive covenants. Recently this has included acting for a life sciences client to bring High Court proceedings to enforce post-termination confidentiality obligations and restrictions, after a former employee used technical information of a confidential nature which had the potential to seriously compromise the validity of the client's market-leading research and services. This resulted in successfully securing an Order of the High Court and undertakings from the former employee to deliver up confidential information and cease acting in breach
- Representing local authorities and a retail client in relation to their defence of multiple equal pay discrimination claims. This involved managing high value litigation which was both complex and high profile. In order to conduct the litigation as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible various technology solutions were implemented with the assistance of WBD's technology experts, including an automated system for producing thousands of Responses
- An international manufacturer in relation to sensitive and potentially high profile disciplinary and termination issues, drafting service and severance agreements, advising on the operation of restrictive covenants, and acting for the client to successfully defend the litigation arising from this.