Brian Napier KC

Senior counsel

Year of call: 1986 | Year of silk: 2002

General information

Brian Napier 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 appeared in the Supreme Court on six occasions in employment cases.  These include a case raising a fundamental issue as to the correct 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 an important 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 in 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 has been actively involved in the litigation that resulted from this decision.

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).

Brian was instructed by Glasgow City Council In 2017 as leading counsel in two appeals to the Inner House over the implementation of Glasgow City Council’s job evaluation scheme and the impact this had on equal value claims brought by the Council’s workforce.

In 2021 Brian successfully defended before the EAT an appeal against a tribunal decision dismissing claims for enhanced redundancy payments brought in respect of a workforce of several hundred employees, having also appeared before the ET: Thomas & Ors v FW Farnsworth Ltd (t/a Pizza Factory) ( [2021] UKEAT 2020-000068

In 2012 Brian was 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 since 2015:

Legal 500 UK 2024 ranks Brian as Leading Silk in Employment Law

Chambers 2022
Brian Napier QC is 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 from the Employment Tribunal to the Supreme Court.
Strengths: “Probably the number one at the Scottish Bar, he has a very strong relationship with the court. He’s head and shoulders above anyone else at the employment Bar.” “We have always found Brian to be highly responsive, commercial and pragmatic in his guidance and advice, and an excellent litigator when we have instructed him to appear in both the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.”

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

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.”

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

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

Areas of expertise


T: 0131 260 5654

Steven Walker KC to speak at the flagship event of Thailand Arbitration Center (THAC)

We are delighted to invite you to attend the flagship event of Thailand Arbitration Center (THAC) “International ADR Week 2022” with the most excited topic that you are looking for “Arbitration and ADR Beyond the Pandemic”. 

The webinar is entitled “Arbitration and ADR Beyond the Pandemic” and will feature Steven Walker QC of Themis Advocates.

14th July 2022 at 10:00 – 18:00 (GMT+7 Thailand time)

Please register from this link here



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Employment Law Conference

Friday 24th May 2024

The Royal Mile, 80 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1TH

Themis Advocates are delighted to invite you to attend our Employment Law Conference on Friday 24th May at the Radisson Blu, High Street, Edinburgh from 1pm-5pm.  The event is free to attend, open to all solicitors, trainees and paralegals and you will be accredited 3 hours CPD.


1300 hrs – Registration & Refreshments

1330 hrsKaterina SteinCase Law Update

1415 hrs – Catherine MacColl – Venturing beyond the contract – the quest for the true agreement in employment relationships

1500 hrs – Refreshment Break

1520 hrsDavid James – Whistleblowing Update

1600 hrsTim Haddow Free Speech and the Workplace

1645 hrs – Conclusion

1700 hrs – Drinks & Canapés to which all attendees are invited

To book your place please register here: