UHR 2019 > Programme > Legal Session Synopses



Legal sessions

Within the programme for UHR 2019 we have an exciting line up of legal sessions offering stimulating discussion around issues affecting the culture and success of organisations. There are five legal sessions for delegates to choose from. 

Please note that exhibitors are unable to attend the legal sessions, unless they have booked a non-member delegate ticket for the event. 

Please see full session synopses in the table below. 

Legal Sessions  

Speakers and Synopses

Legal Session 1



Challenging Times: Preventing & Addressing Work Related Causes of Poor Mental Health

Trish Embley, National Employment Client Trainer, Helen Corden, Partner and Rebecca Stephen, Senior Associate, Pinsent Masons


This session will provide practical guidance on the steps that Universities can take, not only to satisfy their legal obligation to protect their employees' from psychological harm, but also to promote mental well-being within their organisations. Drawing on our experience advising large employers, both within and outside the sector, we will lead on identifying the steps that can be taken to implement the recommendations of the "Thriving at Work" report.

Building on the legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for mental health conditions that amount to "disabilities" we will outline ways that HR can maximise advice from OH, support managers in communicating with absent employees, develop return to work and wellness action plans and to support employees on their return. Given the increasing demands placed upon employees (in terms performance management, regulation and student expectations) we will also focus on stress risk assessments based on the HSE's stress management standards.


Legal Session 2                    

Managing the Tensions Between a Changing Organisational Culture and Individual Expectations

Jane Byford, Partner and Bob Fahy, Senior Associate, VWV


In a time of change for individual HEIs and the HE sector as a whole, including increased regulation, a focus on providing value for money, more flexible and agile working practices, changing expectations of stakeholders and a need to ensure a truly diverse and inclusive culture, HEIs are having to transform and do so at a challenging pace. This can sometimes create a cultural dissonance between organisational and staff expectations, giving rise to resistance to change, low levels of staff resilience and rising levels of reported workplace stress. This session will look at the legal issues that can arise from this tension between the needs of the organisation and the expectations of individual employees and will consider the role that HR has to play in addressing some of the challenges.




Legal Session 3                    




Are you an employer of choice? – ensuring you recruit and retain the best staff in challenging times

Diane Gilhooley, Partner, Chris Mordue, Partner and Nicola Bennison, Partner, all of Eversheds Sutherland


With universities operating in an increasingly competitive labour market the need to recruit and retain key staff has never been more crucial.

In this interactive and topical session, we will consider learning points from recent high-profile cases and legislative developments and explore the following key issues from a strategic perspective:

  • Lessons emerging from gender pay gap reporting and the latest on ethnicity reporting - how can HEIs use positive action to close pay gaps more quickly, develop more balanced workforces and increase their success in recruiting and promoting under-represented groups?
  • The latest developments on tackling sexual harassment, including the role of HR in ensuring a “zero tolerance” culture, new approaches to reporting and complaints handling, and the key challenges in managing the impact on institutional reputation.



Legal Session 4 




Future proof HR – staying ahead in challenging times

Nicola Brown, Partner and Patrick Gass, Principal Associate, Mills & Reeve LLP


Drawing from our experience, we'll provide a lively and topical update on key issues for HEIs. In order to make the session as up-to-date as possible, topics will be identified shortly before the conference, but are likely to include the following, (in addition to horizon scanning on other topical matters including collective and trade union issues):

  • equality update – focus on key cases and the topical issues tailored to sector issues including sexual misconduct in the workplace and the resurgence of equal pay cases in the news;
  • organisational culture expectation – increased pressure in respect of value for money; regulation from the Office for Students; and
  • atypical workers (VLs, HPLs etc.) – striking the balance between flexibility and meeting academic staff expectations;
  • effective workforce – not everyone thrives in a changing environment; we will take a look at what recent case law tells us about practical and sensitive management of grievances, misconduct and sickness.



Legal Session 5                    




A delicate balance – addressing sexual misconduct post #metoo

David Browne, Partner Tom Long, Legal Director and Geraldine Swanton, Legal Director, Shakespeare Martineau LLP


The #MeToo movement has shown the power of social media in leading rapid culture change. Sexual harassment in the workplace is now top of the agenda. Social media posts in the sector have also raised high profile questions about the interaction between freedom of speech and institutional reputation.  HR teams need to be up-to-date and ready to deal with issues that arise in this fast moving world. Drawing from our experience, we will provide a lively, interactive and topical update on key issues for HEIs. We will take delegates through a number of case studies, based on real world examples, to draw out the key issues and recommended approaches to take. As well as considering issues of sexual harassment in the workplace, freedom of speech, and institutional reputation, we will also consider the increasing backlash against the use of settlement agreements and in particular confidentiality clauses as a resolution to dispute.

This session, whilst considering legal issues, will be aimed at giving practicable workable solutions

Please note that these sessions are subject to last minute changes due to speaker alterations. 


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