Meet the employment lawyer: David Whincup

Name: David Whincup

Firm: Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP

Job title: Partner, Head of London Labour & Employment

I qualified as a solicitor in …

A state of some trepidation in 1986.

The main areas I cover are …

Litigation and internal workplace grievances and other disputes, with a growing sideline in mediations and investigations.

I decided I wanted to be an employment solicitor when …

I realised that my initial aspiration to be an International Corporate lawyer did not mean just driving Italian sports cars on German motorways with my (entirely hypothetical) French girlfriend by my side.  I was probably 12 at the time.

The proudest moment of my career to date was when …

One client first referred me to another.

An interesting recent case/client I worked on involved …

An exploration of the competing issues of freedom of contract, social policy and alleged “exploitation” in assessing worker status for a high-profile gig-economy business.

The major issues that employers in the UK currently face include …

Uncertainty over Brexit, obviously, especially likely shortages of skilled staff.  Legally speaking, some worthy but fairly ineptly drafted domestic (non-EU) Regulations making it unnecessarily difficult for employers to know definitively whether they are doing the right thing or not.

In London the main challenges for employment solicitors are …

Seemingly ever more numerous.  There are a lot of employment lawyers in London and many regional firms offering (they say) all the quality and less of the cost.  Every High Street firm will say that it offers employment law services too, so the onus is on London employment practitioners to show they are worth the extra.

Until you can programme a robot to operate within parameters as vague and fact-dependent as “the range of reasonable responses”, the vagaries of the human psychologies that employment lawyers deal with are such that I see little immediate threat through AI, but we would be foolish to ignore the impact of increasing commoditisation of employment litigation which could in time move more junior employment lawyer roles to cheaper locations.

The major change I’d like to see in employment law is …

Not that major.  Being part of an international Employment team shows you lots of bits of other countries’ labour laws and it is possible to conclude that English law strikes a better balance overall in that field than many others.  In Brexit talks I gave both pre and post the Referendum I asked a number of HR audiences what they would change in our employment law if Brexit gave them a free hand – overwhelmingly the view was that the UK has the big stuff about right.

In issues of detail, however, I would limit WTR holiday carry-over to cases where it has some actual health benefit (i.e. not 12-18 months after the period it relates to), encourage ETs to exercise their costs powers more frequently, make mediation a more prominent part of the Acas Code and stop the Government relying on official Guidance as a substitute for drafting Employment legislation properly in the first place.

You may not know this but outside work, I’m very good at …

Knowing stuff about military aircraft (a bit of a niche, admittedly, but all my own).

The best way for HRs to contact me is at:, my direct line on 0207 655 1132 or through the Squire Patton Boggs www.employmentlawworldview blog.

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