Paul was admitted to the bar in 1985 and graduated from the University of Otago in 1986. He was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales in 1991
He joined a large Wellington law firm before practicing in England for three years.
Paul started working for the predecessor of the firm in 1997. In 2013 he became a partner.
Paul has considerable experience in the litigation and insurance arenas and regularly appears in the Weathertight Homes Tribunal, the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court.
He has particular expertise in resolving claims involving flooding, nuisance, planning issues, allegations of negligence when inspecting buildings and disputes involving financial advisers and insurance brokers. He regularly advises on coverage under policies of insurance.
In addition to his extensive common law experience in relation to commercial disputes, Paul heads the firm’s employment liability team. He advises employers in relation to disputes with employees and general employment relations issues. Paul acts on behalf of the insurers of most schools in New Zealand as well as for societies and clubs, health professionals, solicitors and other employers. He writes a monthly column in the leading employment publication, Employment Today.
Knowing your accuser
An employer receives a "confidential" complaint about an employee. The person complained about wants to know the name of their accuser. What is the employer to do?
Victory at all cost
Employment disputes often result in a pyrrhic victory, says Paul Robertson
Breaching Privacy Costs
What is the cost to a person/school if personal information is leaked?
When a pharmacist lodged claims with the Employment Relations Authority, the High Court and the Human Rights Review Tribunal, his formal employer complained the costs and resources involved in defending three separate proceedings would be burdensome.
When Passions Run High
A long-running dispute between a librarian and school principal led to defamation proceedings and an unusual order by the High Court. Paul Robertson explains how it all came about.
Police Vetting - Getting it Right
Making a job offer subject to receiving an acceptable police vetting report can be problematic.
Have I been dismissed?
An employer needs to tread carefully when an employee resigns suddenly.
Someone Else's Problem
A technology teacher took exception to a direction that he set up and maintain equipment for his classes.
A Common Practice that's a Mine Field
Having conducted an investigation, an employer will often set out findings, and outline likely outcomes. The problem is that doing so may lead the employee to believe the employer’s mind is already made up. Paul Robertson looks at how to avoid this problem in an investigation.
An Investigation Goes Wrong
A recent decision involving a South Island school principal reinforces why it’s crucial to get the process ‘right’, especially when considering the statements of witnesses. Paul Robertson explains.
Mum's the Word
A recent Employment Relations Authority decision, involving an early childhood teacher who emailed parents using the preschool’s database, emphasises the importance of having spelled out an employees’ ongoing duty of confidentiality in the employment agreement. Paul Robertson explains.
Shaw v New Plymouth Club Inc (ERA)
We successfully defended a personal grievance by way of constructive dismissal claim in the Employment Relations Authority.view summary
Confidentiality - the Colin Craig Effect
A recent significant award made by the Human Rights Tribunal makes a complaint to the Tribunal an attractive option for those aggrieved by a breach of confidentiality, says Paul Robertson. He explains why great care should be taken to ensure just who is bound by any obligation of confidentiality.
Personal Grievance - The 90 Day Issue
Recent decisions of the Employment Court confirm the importance of responding appropriately to letters setting out personal grievances. A careless answer may mean that the employer has consented to a claim that would otherwise be ineligible, says Paul Robertson.
Easing an employee out - the traps
A dispute involving a disgruntled secondary teacher emphasises the importance of comprehensively resolving a claim at the earliest opportunity, says Paul Robertson.
Who needs to know
Paul Robertson takes a look at a case that perfectly illustrates the quagmire that faces an employer when considering how to investigate allegations against an employee subject to criminal charges, especially one who has name suppression. It’s important to obtain advice, he warns.
Don't forget about your obligations as an employer under the Privacy Act 1993.
The Education Act imposes a duty on the Education Council to investigate serious misconduct. But what happens when that misconduct has also been investigated by the police and they’ve elected not to prosecute? Paul Robertson says it’s a challenging area that requires legal advice.
Settlement Agreement Saves School
The Employment Relations Authority refused to assist a school principal.
Getting the paperwork right
To take advantage of the 90-day trial period provision it is crucial for a business to have all its paperwork in order, says Paul Robertson. He looks at a recent employment Court decision which proved to be costly for a Christchurch company found to have unjustifiably dismissed an employee.
A council has been found not to be liable for defects in the foundations of a Southland home. The plaintiffs sued their builder and the council for $365,000, which represented the losses associated with the need to repair the foundations. The High Court accepted that the damage to the foundations was likely to have been caused by a previously unidentified vein of unsuitable matter (blue pug) under the house. Neither the builder nor the council were at fault for failing to identify the blue pug.
Currie & Ors v Gordon & Ors (HC)
We acted for the Southland District Council and won a case brought against it by the owners of a house who alleged the council's negligence was the cause of their house sinking.view summary
When a school board issued a vagrant with a trespass notice, he went all the way to the Supreme Court to find out more about it. While not an employment dispute, similar considerations apply when a person is subject to disciplinary action, says Paul Robertson.
Firing people is hard to do
When a lecturer removed topics from her lessons because she viewed them as ‘optional’, and then refused to attend mediation proposed by her employer, she was dismissed. But as Paul Robertson explains, a procedural mistake by the university meant her dismissal was unjustified.
Getting it right - a lucky escape
The importance of being an employer who continuously engages with employees is illustrated in the case of a relieving teacher who alleged he had been constructively dismissed. Paul Robertson reports that the school was able to show that despite changing its position, its open dialogue was sufficient for the case to fail.
Consult on changes to avoid trouble
When a school principal undertook a review of management units and reallocated some of them, two staff brought personal grievances alleging they were disadvantaged by the changes.
Swindle v Withers (HC) 30 April 2015
We acted for successful claimants who were awarded $1.5 million in damages against an accountant and the accountant's insurer.view summary
No Agreement: No Trial Period
Fixed term agreements cannot be used to establish the suitability of a potential employee.
Go sick and delay
When a teacher involved in a disciplinary investigation provided medical certificates saying she was unfit because of stress, the board had concerns about the genuineness of the certificates. They considered her alleged poor health was part of a go-sick-and-delay tactic, says Paul Robertson.
Are Teachers Special?
In 2010, the Employment Court warned that allegations of misconduct or incompetence place teachers (and other similarly registered occupations) in double jeopardy of their livelihoods, so great care is required when considering disciplinary action. Paul Robertson checks out the state of play.
An Investigation Goes Wrong
The unjustified dismissal of the manager of an early learning centre has lessons for all employers, says Paul Robertson. The case illustrates the importance, for a full and fair investigation, of asking questions to get to the heart of a dispute and of taking good notes.
Not Investigating is Not an Option
When a board of trustees decided to consider a complaint against an assistant principal along with a separate complaint against a principal, the case dragged on. Paul Robertson says the decision by the Employment Relations Authority highlights the need for complaints to be dealt with as they arise.
Changes designed to improve workplace safety are due to become law next year. How will the changes affect those that manage schools? The answer is unclear, says Paul Robertson. The outcome may be an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences in action.
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
Taking a blank DVD from work was “very much on the cusp” of behaviour for which dismissal may be justified according to a recent Employment Court ruling. Although the dismissal was found to be unjustified, the employee’s misconduct meant that he received a significantly reduced award, says Paul Robertson.
Cheats Never Prosper
When a teacher was dismissed after leaving exam marking papers in her classroom, the Employment Relations Authority found it would have been open to the school to dismiss her. But as Paul Robertson explains, this was not the reason given for her dismissal and the procedure was found to be inappropriate.
Deal Or No Deal
A teacher who claimed he signed a settlement agreement under duress after an acrimonious dispute was not successful when he asked the Employment Relations Authority to reopen his personal grievance. Paul Robertson outlines the elements necessary to establish duress.
Dismissed Too Soon
A relationship breakdown doesn’t always make dismissal inevitable. When a first-time principal was dismissed for alleged serious misconduct, she offered to work with the board of trustees to resolve the situation. They did not respond. Paul Robertson explains why the Employment Relations Authority ordered interim reinstatement.
Hitex Building Systems Ltd v Wilkinson Building & Construction Ltd (HC)
The council succeeded in preserving the Weathertight Homes Tribunal’s apportionment against the remedial cladding company and its director at 73% when this issue was taken on appeal to the High Court.view summary
A teacher argued she had been unjustifiably suspended when she was directed to work from home after making derogatory remarks to students. Paul Robertson explains why she was unsuccessful with her personal grievance.
A Quiet Word
A recent decision by the Employment Court will hopefully encourage parties to settle employment disputes amicably, says Paul Robertson. He looks at the case and at a decision over the identity of the employer in the education sector.
Saunders v Frittelli (DC)
The claim against an insurance broker was struck out because it was time barred.view summary