Mark Howard started with HWL on 26 April. As well as being a partner in the Melbourne office Howard will also head up HWL's workplace relations and safety practice nationally.
Howard was formerly a national practice group leader at Middletons as well as head of their Victorian workplace relations practice, but was not formally in either position at the time of his departure.
“On a personal level I was attracted greatly by the national management responsibilities [at HWL],” Howard told Lawyers Weekly. “The workplace relations and safety group has some good structures in place but I’m tasked with increasing our depth and breadth so that we can become a major player and I think that’s certainly a possibility … [It’s] a great challenge for me.”
Howard has over 25 years of experience in all aspects of industrial relations (IR), employment law and occupational health and safety. He specialises in advising public and private sector employers and state and local government authorities.
He has advised a broad range of industries including government, financial services, technology, construction, manufacturing, insurance, retail and energy and resources.
“I had a look through [HWL’s] client base and I was very attracted by the premier national and local clients. I couldn’t help but note HWL has been on a growth strategy for a while and had identified workplace relations and safety as a focus area [so] I’m comfortable there will be an investment in time and resources,” said Howard.
Coming across with him from Middletons is Chris Egan, a special counsel. Egan brings with him extensive experience in employment law with particular expertise in enterprise bargaining and IR.
Job insecurity driving industrial disputes
Howard’s practice spans enterprise bargaining and workplace agreements, managing industrial disputes, restructures, terminations of employment and enforcement of post-employment restraints.
With continuing global uncertainty about financial conditions he said “there’s going to be a lot of work not only for my group but for workplace lawyers generally”.
“There is statistically, coming out of Fair Work Australia, record highs of unfair dismissal and adverse action claims. I see no reason for that to change and that’s the bread and butter for workplace lawyers.
“Each and every day large and small clients have to review their operations. You pick up the papers today, tomorrow and we’re seeing, in all industries, large scale redundancies and closure of businesses and that’s where workplace specialists are needed to give advice from an early point in time,” said Howard
“Whether it is Qantas, Optus or a large trucking company, there are wholesale losses of jobs and particularly in regional areas … industrial disputation emanates from the fact that there’s job insecurity and there’s not necessarily a strong financial background for the large corporates at the moment.”