Bloomsbury Professional catch up with barrister and employment law author, John-Paul Waite.
1. What first interested you in employment law?
I was attracted to employment as it is an area of law with an exceptionally high degree of human and intellectual interest. The changes to the law tend to reflect shifting societal attitudes towards the workplace and are often a direct reflection of the priorities of the political party which is in power.
2. Is there a particular employment law case that stands out for you?
In terms of Respondent work, probably Essop and Others v Home Office, a case about the meaning of indirect discrimination. We were successful in the Employment Tribunal, lost in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, won in the Court of Appeal and then lost in the Supreme Court! The case illustrated how the answer to some legal questions can turn heavily upon the philosophical perspective of the Court or Tribunal which hears it.
In terms of Claimant work, I would choose Watts v HQL Lifestyles, which was the first successful claim for disability discrimination brought by an HIV positive employee.
3. What do you consider to be the biggest misapprehension about employment law?
There are quite a few…probably the main one is the perception (depending upon whom you are speaking to) that Employment Tribunals are either employer friendly or employee friendly. My experience is that Employment Judges are generally unbiased and decide cases fairly. As in any profession, there may be exceptions but I will keep quiet about those…
4. What do you want to see as the next big development in employment law?
After decades of fundamental change, the law has remained fairly settled since 2010. The next big development is likely to be the response of the Courts and possibly Parliament to the attempts by organisations to avoid the creation of employment/worker status, starting with the forthcoming decision of the Supreme Court in the Pimlico Plumbers case.
John-Paul Waite is a barrister at 5 Essex Court and authored The Employment Tribunals Handbook: Practice, Procedure and Strategies for Success.