Employment Law

The employment law team at Carson McDowell is widely recognised as one of the leading employment teams in Northern Ireland. Given the backgrounds of its two partners, Orlagh O’Neill and Rachel Penny, Carson McDowell is one of the only firms in Northern Ireland that can claim genuine expertise in the entire spectrum of employment law. Our clients, who span the private, public and voluntary sectors, tell us they value the quality and speed of our technical advice and our ability to provide strategic solutions which balance legal and commercial issues. Above all, they value the importance we place on investing time in getting to know our client’s business and building on personal relationships.

Orlagh has unrivalled expertise in Northern Ireland in terms of contentious employment law matters, and Rachel is an acknowledged expert in matters such as TUPE, large scale redundancy/re-organisation programmes. The team is best known for its impressive and ever expanding client list, its commercial and pragmatic lawyers and its ability to offer specialist contentious, non-contentious/advisory and ‘corporate’ employment law. Unsurprisingly, the employment team is ranked tier 1 in the Legal 500 2018 and band 1 in the Chambers Guide to the UK Profession 2019.

What we do:

  • Drafting and advising on all aspects of the employment contract and associated employment policies including staff handbooks
  • Employment litigation, spanning the defence and representation of employers at Industrial and Fair Employment Tribunals, as well as dealing with High Court breach of contract claims and injunctions
  • Employment aspects of corporate restructuring, outsourcing and mergers
  • Equality and fair employment advice, ranging from compliance with Northern Ireland’s unique equality legislation to defending equality claims
  • Advising on the handling of grievance and other workplace investigations
  • Industrial relations and trade union matters
  • Performance- advising on performance, managing absence and misconduct
  • Restrictive covenants and team moves
  • Redundancy, reorganisations and changes to terms and conditions of employment
  • Handling senior executive terminations, including drafting and negotiating compromise agreements
  • TUPE
  • Whistleblowing
  • Advising on data protection, in particular the impact of GDPR on the employment relationship, employment records and employee monitoring
  • Bespoke training, seminars and workshops on a wide range of employment issues

What Others Say About Us

Chambers and Partners UK 2019

What the team is known for

Market-leading employment team that provides a full and commercial service to an impressive clientele. Renowned for the strength of both its contentious and non-contentious work. Acts for regional and multinational clients from a range of sectors, including manufacturing, retail and travel. Recent activity has seen the team advise clients on discrimination and whistle-blowing claims.


A client states that the team is "incredibly responsive, the personal service is great, and obviously the legal advice has been superb."

Another client appreciates the team's "excellent strategic advice and depth of experience."

Work highlight

Advised J & E Davy in relation to its acquisition of the wealth management business carried on by Danske Bank in Northern Ireland including on the TUPE transfer of Danske's wealth management employees.

Notable practitioners

Orlagh O'Neill maintains an excellent reputation among peers and clients for her expertise in contentious employment advice. One client says that "she is an excellent employment lawyer who gives very solid, calm, measured advice", while another adds that she takes an "excellent strategic approach."

Rachel Penny is a well-respected practitioner who focuses her practice on advising clients during corporate transactions on any employment matters. Commentators appreciate her "combination of ability and interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence."

The Legal 500 2018

What the team is known for

Carson McDowell’s employment practice provides an "excellent service" across a wide spectrum of matters, including discrimination and equality claims, TUPE issues, unfair dismissal claims and advisory and regulatory work. The client base includes well-known Northern Ireland-based companies as well as international entities from a range of sectors, including logistics, finance, food production, technology, and transportation.


Litigation expert Orlagh O'Neill leads the ‘highly responsive and knowledgeable’ team. Rachel Penny is "extremely knowledgeable, clever, practical and approachable" and is noted for her expertise in TUPE matters, redundancies, and reorganisations. Associate Sarah Cochrane has notable experience in corporate employment matters.

Work highlights

Successfully defended key client Royal Mail Group in a number of claims concerning unfair dismissal, discrimination, breach of contract and harassment.

Notable practitioners

Orlagh O'Neill and Rachel Penny.

Significant Clients

Electoral Office for Northern Ireland, Ulster University, and Xilinx.