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It may be a well-worn statement but it is entirely true that “employees are an organisation’s most valuable asset”. It is equally true that getting the most from employees is no easy task, one that requires particular skills and expertise as well as a large investment of time.

The Hugh James employment and HR legal specialists deliver astute expertise to ensure that your greatest asset doesn’t turn into your worst nightmare. We work in partnership with clients to offer pragmatic solutions, minimise risk and help maximise human capital.

We adopt an innovative approach to employment law as we understand that advising about employment means going much further than just understanding the law. We take time to understand the bigger picture – the regulatory context, the internal ramifications and the sensitivities so that we can deliver effective legal solutions that work for you.

The team provides a comprehensive range of services in dealing with professional and operational HR issues and handles a variety of employment law work.  We deliver high quality services that make a real difference to businesses. Our services include:

  • absence management;
  • advice on legislation, relevant case law, best practice guidance;
  • defending employment tribunal claims, including all preparation and advocacy;
  • dispute resolution and mediation;
  • drafting contracts, contractual disputes and implementation of contractual changes;
  • expert advice on atypical working i.e. part time and fixed term employees;
  • HR policies and procedures;
  • managing diversity – ensuring compliance, best practice and resolving conflicts;
  • managing risk of dismissal processes;
  • pensions and employee benefits;
  • redundancies, restructuring and change management;
  • stress and bullying claims; and
  • TUPE.


Examples of some recent employment matters that the Hugh James employment team have worked on:

  • advising (in conjunction with our corporate team) on complex procurement exercises or business sales/purchases;
  • acting as presenting officers for the General Teaching Council for Wales in professional misconduct and capability hearings;
  • acting on behalf of a transport sector client in relation to a long-running grievance, implementing changes at senior management level, mentoring, restructuring of the departments and a change management process;
  • advising a public sector client on a number of difficult performance and grievance issues at a senior level including allegations of whistle blowing bullying and harassment;
  • advising and providing guidance to a Welsh Government sponsored organisation on trade union recognition and information and consultation;
  • advising both private and public sector clients in respect of trade union matters;
  • advising a public sector client on a number of matters, including issues arising out of the implementation of an agreed job evaluation process;
  • advising a Housing Association client on the harmonisation of terms and conditions of employment following a TUPE transfer including complex issues regarding pension benefits. This resulted in successfully defending a multi-party claim in relation to the imposed changes to terms and conditions.


The Hugh James employment team offers a variety of employment services, with a particularly strong specialism in acting on matters in the housing sector. Clients include employers as well as a number of senior individuals. Sources commend the team for preserving a Welsh identity while attracting a solid stable of clients both in Wales and further afield. Emma Burns leads the work of the team and is described as “very pleasant to work with.” Chambers UK 2014

Emma Burns at Hugh James is a popular choice with clients. Her team secured new appointments to act for Cardiff Council and Brakes Bakery. The practice spans strategic workforce planning, including collective redundancy and TUPE matters, corporate support, and litigation. The Legal 500 2013

“Whenever I need employment advice, I am re-assured to know that Louise is only a phone call away.  Over the years, the advice I have received from Louise has always enabled us to deal with employment matters competently, minimising any risk to the organisation. Louise is adept at clearly explaining complex employment matters to lay people.  Her knowledge, contacts and advice have undoubtedly enabled us to achieve early resolution with employment matters that are often complex and difficult.” Lesley Davies, Chief Executive, Rhondda Housing Association

“Louise has assisted us with a number of projects from the delivery of interactive training sessions through to policy and procedural advice – the quality of her advice and the clarity of the guidance she offers is always second to none and based on an excellent technical knowledge and professional thoroughness”. Simon Cox, HR Manager – UK & Ireland Invacare

Valued for its “availability, response time, clarity of steps necessary to achieve solutions and commercial approach to time keeping,” Hugh James is highlighted as a go-to firm for clients looking for a cost-effective employment solutions. Sources say: “They look at the issue from both a legal and a commercial point of view” and “they respond quickly and make the effort to ensure their advice is as cost-effective as possible.” Head of department Emma Burns provides “clear, concise, commercial advice.” Clients value the “strength of her knowledge and her negotiation-focused approach, coupled with her friendly and approachable style.” Chambers UK 2013

Hugh James delivers ‘sound expert advice from a legal perspective and a commercial/practical point of view’. Well-regarded partner Louise Price can ‘translate often complex legal issues into simple layman’s terms’. They successfully defended the WRU in an unfair dismissal claim. Other clients include Braces Bakery and a range of HR directors, while new instructions came from the Farmers Union Wales and Bywaters. The Legal 500 2011

“Takes time to understand our culture and to get involved in our issues. Works within our culture to find solutions that fit our business. Makes us feel that he is part of the company while working with us yet at the same time still able to take a helicopter view. Communicates feedback and recommendations effectively”. HR consultancy and employment client

“Provided good support which inspired confidence. Very professional and courteous. Always got back when promised and in a timely manner and met his commitments. Always appreciate his ability to involve (the employment lawyers) when legal advice is required.” HR consultancy and employment client

“Many of the issues we discussed were sensitive and potentially contentious. However, John’s challenging yet supportive approach helped the team to work through these in a focused and constructive way and enabled us to make some key strategic decisions”. HR consultancy and employment client

“The service provided was worth every penny – it was money well spent. Not one aspect of the service could be improved. A bonus for us was using Hugh James – we wanted a top drawer firm and got one”. HR consultancy and employment client

This team is noted for its advice on contentious matters to a range of public and private sector clients. Recent highlights include successfully defending a claim of unfair dismissal on behalf of the Welsh Rugby Union. Emma Burns has an “encyclopaedic knowledge of equal pay law.” She has handled several thousand equal pay claims on behalf of Welsh local authorities. Chambers UK 2012

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"They are the go-to firm - a regional heavyweight. They have a complete range of expertise."

Chambers UK 2014, Banking and Finance

"It is a big and well-regarded outfit with proper support mechanisms."

Chambers UK 2014, Clinical Negligence

"An efficient, friendly and personable team."

Chambers UK 2014, Corporate and M&A

"They are unparalleled in their field; they are widely known, feared, respected – you name it."

Chambers UK 2014, Environment: Clamant

"Hugh James' main strength is its calm and reasoned approach to cases, with a willingness to give firm and sensible advice."

Chambers UK 2014, Family

"They have excellent personalised client service and provide thorough, specialised legal expertise. They set the benchmark for excellence."

Chambers UK 2014, Private Client

"We find them very supportive, they really tend to us and they are always there for us."

Chambers UK 2014, Social Housing

"Hugh James is head and shoulders above the rest for contentious probate."

Legal 500 2013, Contentious Trusts and Probate

"Cardiff firm Hugh James joins the top tier in recognition of its proven capability in headline group actions."

Legal 500 2013, Product Liability, London
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