James Dawson

Year of Call: 1994
Email Address: james.dawson@3pb.co.uk
Telephone: 01962 868 884

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Employment and discrimination

James has been an employment specialist throughout his career, he was appointed:

  • subject leader in employment law for Manchester Metropolitan University at the age of 28,
  • an Employment Judge at the age of 30 and
  • is now head of the Employment and Equalities Group for 3PB.

James has been described as having a knowledge of the law that is almost "nerdy" (ref. Chambers and Partners 2015) and for being recognised for the thoroughness of his preparation. In hearings he is known as being "incredibly convincing" and he has received tribute from Mr Justice Langstaff, President of the EAT, for his submissions.

Unfair Dismissal

Unfair Dismissal is the bedrock of employment law and James has huge experience of all types of unfair dismissal claim, acting for employers and employees. James has acted for many local authorities in defending unfair dismissal claims as well as corporations including retailers and IT specialists.

Notable cases:

  • successfully acting for a retailer in defending a 13 day claim for unfair dismissal where the employee asserted his dismissal was on trade union grounds
  • successfully acting for a local authority who dismissed a registrar of births, deaths and marriages where the issue was whether the registrar, as an office holder, was also an employee
  • successfully defending a manufacturing company which had commenced a dismissal process against an employee who had been off sick for 8 weeks; the 6 day hearing commenced with the Judge announcing that "presumably unfair dismissal is conceded by the employer" and ended with the Tribunal finding for the employer on every ground
  • successfully acting for a local authority who had reallocated a pregnant employee's job to another worker when she returned from maternity leave
    acting for a worker in a 5 day claim against her "employer" where the issue was whether, as an agency worker, the worker was also employed by the end user at common law or under TUPE. The claim settled before a hearing at the EAT.


Discrimination covers a wide variety of fields from race to sex and disability to sexual orientation. James is frequently involved in cases where serious discrimination is alleged and acts for employers and employees alike. He also acts for service providers who are being sued in the civil courts.

Notable cases:

  • acting for an Oxford college in successfully having a race and disability discrimination claim struck out as having no prospect of success
  • acting for an employee with ADHD and chronic fatigue in an 8 day trial against a leading employer in the financial sector (the case is ongoing)
  • successfully acting for an employee with depression in a claim against Hampshire Police, the case settled between the liability and remedy hearing
  • acting for an international investment management company in resisting a claim of associative discrimination on the grounds of the employee's wife's disability.
  • successfully resisting a claim of race and sex discrimination on behalf of a large local authority- both at first instance and in the EAT
  • successfully resisting a claim of disability discrimination and race discrimination made by a profoundly deaf employee; the tribunal accepting James' submissions on causation in the context of "arising from disability"
  • successfully acting on the appeal in A v B [2013] IRLR 434, a race discrimination claim in which the employee sought to have his conviction for kerb crawling excluded from the ET hearing under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
  • acting for an Oxford college accused of disability discrimination by a student who was excluded from halls (case ongoing)
  • acting for a pub landlord accused of racial harassment of Irish Travellers (case ongoing)

Transfer of Undertakings

Because of his expertise in commercial law as well as employment law, James understands the concepts behind transfers of undertakings as well as the employment law ramifications. Whether the transfer arises because of a pre-pack administration, a management buy-out, an outsourced contract or a sale of assets James understands the commercial background as well as the impact on employees. He is an ideal choice for transfer of undertaking cases.

James appeared for the transferor employer in the leading case of Abellio v Musse [2012] IRLR 360, a case about changing the place of employment following a transfer.

Other notable cases:

  • acting for a national transport company where, following the purchase of another business, the director of that business asserted that his employment had transferred to James' client. James was successful in having the claim dismissed.
  • advising the claimants in a £10m claim arising out of the sale of the Blinkbox business
  • acting for an employee in a claim arising out of the purchase of AIU by Regents University London
  • acting for an employee in a 5 day claim against her "employer" where the issue was whether, as an agency worker, the employee was also employed by the end user at common law or under TUPE. The claim settled before a hearing at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
  • acting for the employer in the Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Mortgage 27 v Asare Browne UKEATPA/1143/14/DM5
  • Successfully acting for a care provider (W) in resisting a claim that a transfer of undertaking had taken place when residents in certain accommodation were moved to different accommodation provided by W.

Directors' Duties

Claims for breach of directors’ duties come in all shapes and sizes.  A company may wish to bring a claim against its directors, former directors or companies that its former director has gone to work for. Outside bodies, such as liquidators, may wish to bring proceedings against directors and their associates.  James’extensive  experience in commercial law, including insolvency, enables him to take a holistic approach to such claims.

Notable cases:

  • Acting for a well known trade union whose former General Secretary and Finance Secretary had arranged for over £150,000 of funds to be paid into his pension fund.
  • Acting for a high profile director of a charity who was alleged to have deliberately and wrongfully diverted sums from the charity to his pension fund while bullying his co-directors to prevent them from challenging him.
  • Advising the liquidators of a company on the liability of directors under the Companies Act who paid dividends to themselves totalling £325,000 at a time when HMRC was questioning the legitimacy of tax avoidance schemes the company had entered into. HMRC ultimately demanded tax payments of £389,000 causing the company to go into insolvent liquidation.
  • Acting for a company director being prosecuted for failing to keep proper accounting records
  • Acting for the manufacturers of materials under Royal Warrant where one of the directors caused all of the stock and manufacturing equipment to be removed over the course of a weekend to an undisclosed location
  • Advising an excluded director and minority shareholder on the ability of the company to bring a derivative action claim when other directors had failed to adequately deal with a conflict of interest.

Restrictive Covenants

It is critically important that anyone analysing restrictive covenants, or their enforceability, is able to do so against the background of the industry in which the employee works, the employment contract as a whole and the status of the employee- whether she or he is An employee solely, or also a shareholder, a director or a partner in the business.  It is therefore important that James is an experienced commercial litigator as well as an employment one.

James has extensive experience of advising on the enforceability of restrictive covenants and other restraints on employee competition, drafting covenants for companies to incorporate into their terms and conditions and acting for companies and employees in the High Court.

Notable cases:

  • RSS v Dawson [2013] EWHC 2309, in which he successfully resisted an application for a worldwide restraint of trade injunction, the High Court judge accepting his submissions as to the correct approach to an application for interim relief.
  • Representing employees who were alleged to have stolen a company database in breach of restrictive covenants and used it to compete with the company.
  • Advising a partnership on the ability of a former partner to compete with it when she was using a similar name to the partnership and the partnership’s marketing material.
  • Advising a large, regional, chiropractor business when one of its chiropractors opened a competing practice across the road from her former place of work.
  • Representing a firm of accountants in respect of restrictive covenants contained within a business purchase agreement and their enforceability against the vendor of the business.
  • Drafting tailored restrictive covenants for different employees within a publishing house, thereby ensuring the greatest chance of the covenants being held to be enforceable.

Working time, holiday, sickness

The decisions by companies as to the granting of bonuses, changing commission schemes or terminating employment contracts with or without notice can have significant ramifications for employers and employees alike.  Strong commercial instincts combined with detailed knowledge of legal principles make James the ideal choice of barrister for these type of claims. Indeed the 2016 Legal 500 has acknowledged; “He has a fantastic eye for detail, and first-class commercial and strategic instincts”.

Notable cases:

  • Representing a financial services company in a claim by an employee for commission amounting to £6m; the claim is currently listed for a 30 day trial in 2017/8.
  • Representing a leading Computer Sciences company in a lengthy trial on whether changes to a commission scheme were irrational or otherwise made in breach of an employee’s contract. All claims were dismissed.
  • Representing a senior executive in a claim for a bonus due on the sale of a company by which he was  employed and his entitlement to an annual bonus.
  • Advising a sales director as to his entitlement to notice pay and payment of a bonus which had been declared but not paid at the date of his employment ceasing.
  • Representing a sales director when  the commission scheme under which he was paid a five figure amount each month was amended so that he lost significant commission  but his colleagues did not.


Public Interest Disclosures- or Whistleblowing- is a technically difficult area of law in which James has real expertise and experience.  Nearly all whistleblowing cases require a firm understanding of employment law generally and commercial interests specifically.  Because of James’s expertise in commercial law he adds real value to any whistleblowing team. He has appeared in cases throughout the UK, in Employment Tribunals and the appeal courts.

Notable cases include:

  • Successfully acting for a local authority in a  lengthy claim by a Registrar of Marriages who asserted that he had made public interest disclosures to local councillors,  and successfully resist an appeal to  the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the same case.
  • Successfully obtaining a strike out order on behalf of an Oxford University College in respect of an employee’s claim, which alleged that he had been subject to a detriment for whistleblowing.  James also successfully obtained a costs order against the same employee on the basis that his claim had no reasonable prospect of success.
  • Successfully resisting a high value claim against a Liverpool based engineering company by an employee who asserted that he had been dismissed for making whistle blowing disclosures of race discrimination.  A costs order was made as a result of James’ submissions.
  • Acting for a claimant in a complex 8 day case against a leading financial institution, including issues of detriment for making a public interest disclosure.
  • Acting for one of the country’s leading Computer Sciences companies, which faced a claim by a senior manager that he had made whistleblowing allegations in respect of bullying.  The claim was successfully resolved after James’ input.
  • Acting for the claimant in a whistleblowing claim against the National Crime Agency.
  • Acting for a public transport company faced with a claim with a huge number of allegations that the claimant had made a public interest disclosures, as well as allegations of breach of contract, breach of health and safety regulations and discrimination on the grounds of religion.  The claim was dismissed on the first day a lengthy hearing as a result of James’ submission.
  • Acting for the claimant in the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Lancum v British Independent Utilities, the appeal involved issues on perversity.


‘Very intellectual and a quick thinker on his feet.’

Legal 500 2018/19 - Employment – Leading juniors - Western

'He is bright, approachable and client friendly.'

Legal 500 2018/19 - Employment – Leading juniors - London

‘He is very methodical and prepares well.’

Legal 500 2017/Employment – Leading juniors

‘He has a real fighting streak and is superb with witnesses.’

Legal 500 2017/Leading individual

‘He prepares exceptionally well for his cases and his cross-examination is second to none.’

Legal 500 2016/Employment – Leading juniors

'He has a fantastic eye for detail, and first-class commercial and strategic instincts'.

Legal 500 2016/Leading individual

'He quickly absorbs and analyses complex information in order to establish the relevant issues." "He has a fantastic analytical mind and prepares exceptionally thoroughly.'

Legal 500 2015/Leading individual

'Has a nationwide practice representing both employers and employees, with a focus on discrimination and unfair dismissal law. His crossover work in commercial law also contributes to his expertise in restrictive covenants and TUPE work. He is notable for his significant appellate level practice.'
Strengths: “He is able to draw on a wealth of knowledge and tactical astuteness to offer clear, intelligent advice and representation that is hard to beat.”

Chambers UK 2019

"He's absolutely my number-one barrister: if we have anything that's very complicated or high value he's our go-to man. If we have something that we think will end up in the Supreme Court then we'll use him. He's outstandingly down to earth and seems to have no ego at all – fantastic to work with."
Recent work: Represented a senior surveyor in a high-profile and high-value sex discrimination and unfair dismissal claim against BP.

Chambers UK 2018

Strengths: "He is incredibly bright, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of TUPE and provides a first-class and responsive service."'

Chambers UK 2017
'He clearly dedicates much time to the preparation of matters, and knows the papers back to front, so that he can use them to make points very clearly.'

Chambers UK 2016

'He is a clear, technically astute advocate who is very thorough and approachable. His knowledge of law is almost nerdy, and he uses it to such a powerful extent that he is incredibly convincing.'

Chambers UK 2015


Judicial Comment 

“I have already paid tribute to the argument of Mr Dawson” - Mr Justice Langstaff: Woods v Somerset County Council.

"We consider he conducted a difficult hearing in an exemplary fashion" - Extract from the judgment of the tribunal in Uche v Oxfordshire County Council.

“Mr Dawson … represented the Claimant with great skill....” - Judge Davies: Hayden v STRI

"[Mr Dawson's] preparation and advocacy ...was first-class" Judge in Budhram v Oxford City Council

Client Tributes 

  • An "excellent choice of barrister" (lay client).
  • "it was very reassuring to be so ably represented" (lay client).
  • "Thanks for giving me Mr Dawson for this job. He excelled and got us a good result" (instructing solicitor).
  • “Most importantly can you please convey our thanks to our barrister James Dawson who represented us so well; it was clearly evident that he had thoroughly prepared for the case. His knowledge of the facts and background information was very impressive and his skills in cross examination [were] excellent. He was very easy to work with and very supportive to those witnesses who were less confident at the prospect of being a witness”. (HR Partner of lay client).
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Academic qualifications

  • LLB Hons

Professional qualifications & appointments

  • Fee Paid Employment Judge

Professional bodies

  • Employment Law Bar Association
  • Chancery Bar Association

Direct Access

James Dawson is qualified to accept instructions directly from members of the public and professional clients under the Direct Public Access scheme.

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