Stephen took on the leadership of Thompsons’ Solicitors 10 years’ ago, after 20 years with the firm. In that decade as chief executive, Stephen has steered Thompsons through challenging times for the firm’s clients, so that it remains at the cutting edge of workers’ rights.
In 1987, Stephen was heavily involved in the dispute between ACTT and TVAM, when 200 members were sacked for striking over terms and conditions.
Widely recognised as one of the country’s leading experts on trade union and employment law, Stephen’s views and advice are sought by a wide range of publications, organisations, politicians and trade unions. Stephen has given evidence to Parliamentary committees, including the House of Commons Trade Union Bill Committee, the Justice Select Committee on Employment Tribunal fees and has appeared as a witness at the European Parliament Social Affairs committee on the Acquired Rights Directive.
Trade union general secretaries and senior officials regularly consult Stephen for his advice and guidance on sensitive legal, industrial and political issues. These range from making sure that union rule books are competent and compliant, industrial action is legal, to dealing with constitutional issues and certification officer challenges.
Stephen advised past Labour Governments and Ministers on drafting legislation, particularly around TUPE – The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations – and its implementation.
Currently, Stephen is advising on policy formulation for the Labour Party and trade unions, including Workplace 2020, trade union bills and the Taylor Review into Employment Practices in the Modern Economy.
Joining Thompsons in 1987 handling personal injury claims, Stephen soon made a name for himself as a champion of workers’ rights. In 1995, specialising in employment law, Stephen set up Thompsons’ Employment Rights unit – the first dedicated solely to trade union law. In 2000, with new trade union legislation, Stephen dealt with many of the early recognition cases.
A committed trade unionist and long-standing Labour Party member, Stephen is always on the side of the workers, doing the right thing for the right people in the right way at Thompsons. Driven by a desire to challenge injustice, Stephen gets immense satisfaction from leading the way to victories and important cases won over the years by Thompsons. Friends describe Stephen as dedicated, dynamic and talented, foes describe him as formidable and fearless.
Outside work, Stephen uses his skills and expertise to campaign against injustice, against racism and fascism, supports organisations such as Justice for Colombia, the anti-racist education group Show Racism the Red Card, speaks at trade union and Labour events. But it’s not all politics – a passionate fan of Tottenham Hotspur, Stephen is a Spurs season ticket holder, cricket watcher and unapologetic ageing punk rocker.
Stephen has dealt with many major employment law cases that retain their significance today:
Wilson and ors v UK  - decision by the European Court of Human Rights that forced a change in UK law to bar employers from inducing workers to give up their right to be part of a trade union collective bargaining arrangement;
R (Bectu) v Department of Trade and Industry  - European Court of Justice decision giving workers a right to holiday from day one by ruling that inclusion of a 13-week qualifying period in the UK legislation implementing the working time directive was incompatible with the directive;
Dines v Initial Healthcare Services  - Court of Appeal decision that a change of contractor following a competitive tendering exercise amounted to the transfer of an undertaking, securing rights for thousands of public sector cleaning, catering and other staff.
A former Chair of the Industrial Law Society, Stephen remains a member.
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said:
“Stephen has been a great friend and champion of trade unions and workers’ rights for more than three decades. He has played a pivotal role in building up Thompsons’ expertise in employment law and has spearheaded ground-breaking cases. Stephen’s commitment to the trade union movement is second to none. I value his real understanding of the challenges we face, and I know that unions appreciate his sound advice on complex legal issues too”.