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Paul Robertson

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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.


1 June 2018

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?

7 May 2018

Victory at all cost

Employment disputes often result in a pyrrhic victory, says Paul Robertson

1 February 2018

Breaching Privacy Costs

What is the cost to a person/school if personal information is leaked?

3 January 2018

Breaching a record of settlement

Reaching a settlement involves making compromises.

24 November 2017

Triple Jeopardy

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.

1 October 2017

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.

1 September 2017

Police Vetting - Getting it Right

Making a job offer subject to receiving an acceptable police vetting report can be problematic.

2 July 2017

Have I been dismissed?

An employer needs to tread carefully when an employee resigns suddenly.

7 May 2017

Someone Else's Problem

A technology teacher took exception to a direction that he set up and maintain equipment for his classes.

19 March 2017

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.

19 February 2017

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.

1 January 2017

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.

18 November 2016

Shaw v New Plymouth Club Inc (ERA)

We successfully defended a personal grievance by way of constructive dismissal claim in the Employment Relations Authority.

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1 November 2016

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.

30 September 2016

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.

1 August 2016

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.

1 July 2016

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.

2 May 2016

Private Practice

Don't forget about your obligations as an employer under the Privacy Act 1993.

29 March 2016

Double Jeopardy

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.

2 November 2015

Settlement Agreement Saves School

The Employment Relations Authority refused to assist a school principal.

28 September 2015

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.

27 September 2015

Good Foundations

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.

28 August 2015

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.

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3 August 2015

Keeping Schtum

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.

26 July 2015

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.

28 June 2015

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.

1 May 2015

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.

30 April 2015

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.

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30 March 2015

No Agreement: No Trial Period

Fixed term agreements cannot be used to establish the suitability of a potential employee.

8 February 2015

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.

1 December 2014

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.

1 October 2014

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.

1 September 2014

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.

1 August 2014

Unintended Consequences

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.

1 July 2014

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.

1 June 2014

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.

1 May 2014

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.

1 April 2014

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.

14 March 2014

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.

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28 February 2014

Teacher Discipline

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.

1 November 2013

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.

3 September 2013

Saunders v Frittelli (DC)

The claim against an insurance broker was struck out because it was time barred.

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