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Downturn a windfall for workplace relations

Downturn a windfall for workplace relations

Clayton Utz has recently made several senior appointments in its workplace relations practice. Senior associate Rob French, pinched from Freehills, recently joined the team in Melbourne, along…

Clayton Utz has recently made several senior appointments in its workplace relations practice. Senior associate Rob French, pinched from Freehills, recently joined the team in Melbourne, along with lawyers Alison Spivey and Regan Sterry who joined late last year. The Brisbane office has brought Shae McCartney on board as a senior associate, and Maurice Baroni has been promoted to partner in Sydney. On top of this, a spokesperson from the firm said, several more senior appointments are expected in coming months.

Partner Glenn Bartlett, who's recently relocated to the firm's Melbourne office from Perth, said that the appointments have been made in response to the high volume of work which is largely a result of the significant changes proposed in the Federal Government's Fair Work Bill 2008.

"With the Fair Work Bill we're talking about, I think, probably the most significant changes - in a lot of ways - that we've seen for some time," he said. "If you look at the agreement making options and processes [and] the changes to institutions such as setting up Fair Work Australia, the changes to minimum entitlements for everyone including managing directors [and] the changes to unfair dismissal - these reforms are extremely significant and are creating work."

This has been amplified by the economic downturn, Bartlett said, as employers seek advice on how to handle their workforce. "It's been a long time since we've been in an environment where a lot of companies want advice on restructuring and redundancies. I hadn't seen any of that work for a number of years ... but there's a heap of it at the moment," he said.

Bartlett also observed that in a downturn, workers who believe they've been terminated unfairly will be more likely to seek legal recourse due to the lack of alternative opportunities, whereas in brighter times they would have simply moved on to another, possibly better-paid, position.

- Zoe Lyon

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