Themis Advocates

Brian Napier QC

Year of Call: 1986

Year of Silk: 2002


T: 0131 260 5654

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Brian Napier QC is recognised as the leading practitioner in employment law at the Scottish bar. He is regularly instructed in complex and high-value cases, both in Scotland and England. At appellate level he has recently appeared in the Supreme Court in a case raising a fundamental issue that goes to the interpretation of the right of conscientious objection under the Abortion Act 1967 (Doogan and Wood v Greater Glasgow Health Board (November 2014, judgment awaited) and in 2012 he successfully defended before the Supreme Court the decision of the Court of Session in a case involving both sex and race discrimination (Hewage v Grampian Health Board [2012] IRLR 870, SC). He has appeared in several cases before the Court of Appeal and Employment Appeal Tribunal in England. In Scotland he regularly appears in the Court of Session, the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and also at employment tribunals.

In 2014 he was instructed for all respondents in a series of cases decided by the EAT involving challenges to holiday pay calculations. (AMEC/Hertel and Bear Scotland) and he is actively involved in the ongoing litigation that is associated with this area of law.

In 2012 he was successful in challenging before the EAT the regime governing collective consultation on the ending of fixed-term contracts (University of Stirling v UCU [2012] IRLR 266) a decision which he successfully defended in an appeal to the Court of Session in 2013. He is instructed as counsel for an appeal to the Supreme Court which will be heard in early 2015. In 2013 he successfully appealed to the Court of Session a decision of the EAT which had radically restricted the law of unfair constructive dismissal as this operated in Scotland: McNeill v Aberdeen City Council [2014] IRLR 113, IH. In 2010 and 2011 he acted for employees before the employment tribunal and EAT in an equal pay claim (Bury MBC v Hamilton [2011] IRLR 358) that set limits on the availability of the “material factor” defence available to employers under the Equal Pay Act, and he was also counsel instructed by Unison in the successful appeal to the Court of Session in Wilkinson v City of Edinburgh Council ([2012] IRLR 202).

In 2012 Brian was asked to be a member of the Working Group under Mr Justice Underhill which made recommendations for reform of employment tribunal rules and which led to their radical revision. In 2010 he was asked to conduct an inquiry for the States of Jersey into the dismissal of a senior police officer. He has for many years been an editor of Harvey on Industrial Relations and Employment Law(Butterworths), and Transfer of Undertakings (Sweet & Maxwell) and contributes to Blackstone’s Employment Law Practice. He gives lectures and seminars on a wide range of topics in employment and discrimination law.

Before practising full-time at the Scottish and English Bars, Brian was an academic lawyer, teaching first at the University of Cambridge and subsequently at the University of London where he was a Professor of Law.. He has also spent a year teaching law in France (Universities of Paris 1 and 2) and has experience of teaching at the University of Bordeaux.

Brian is rated Star Individual in Chambers UK 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018:

Widely recognised as the pre-eminent member of the Employment Bar in Scotland, with additional experience of acting in courts across England. He operates a wide employment law practice, with a particular strength in discrimination matters. He is a well-known advocate at both the Employment Tribunal and the Supreme Court. "He has a vast amount of experience and is incredibly personable. He brings a fabulous combination of experience, academic ability and persuasiveness for courts and tribunals." "A very able and innovative counsel."

Chambers 2017

"Stands alone as the most highly regarded employment counsel at the Scottish Bar and remains the only dedicated specialist in this market. He appears in both English and Scottish jurisdictions on contractual breaches, discrimination and unfair dismissal cases, and is many clients' first choice for Employment Tribunal representation. He is highly technical, commercial and unflappable.He has an extensive breadth of knowledge and great litigation skills."

Legal 500 UK 2020 states that Brian is  “A veteran employment law practitioner."

Chambers 2016

Brian Napier QC of Themis Advocates: His work in employment law spans both the Scottish and English Bars, and he is often instructed in complex matters with far-reaching consequences. He operates at all levels from the Employment Tribunal to the Supreme Court, and has a particular focus on cases involving discrimination and equality. Strengths: "We love his thoroughness, his intellect and his finesse in presenting an argument." "He's certainly respected by the judges, as he does his homework, and he's always on the ball." Recent work: Represented the employer organisations in the case of Bear Scotland & Others v Fulton & Others, a key Employment Appeal Tribunal case regarding the calculation of holiday pay with regard to overtime.

General Information

  • M.A University of Cambridge
  • LL.B University of Edinburgh
  • Ph.D University of Cambridge
  • Visiting Professor of Law, University of London
  • Standing Junior Counsel to the Scottish Executive (June 2001 - February 2002)