Richard Arthur, head of collective and institutional employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors, has been named employment and pensions lawyer of the year for his work on the groundbreaking pensions and redundancy rights case of Beckmann v Dynamco Whicheloe Macfarlane Ltd.

Richard's team at trade union law firm Thompsons beat those from leading City and international firms to the title at the Legal Business 2003 awards.

Beckmann, a test case in the European Court of Justice fought by Thompsons on behalf of public sector union UNISON, established that private contractors who withheld pensions benefits from ex-NHS staff must pay back millions of pounds in withheld pensions benefits.

The ruling in June last year affected thousands of workers originally employed in the public sector and who were made redundant aged over 50 after their jobs were contracted out. The far-reaching decision will benefit workers not only in the NHS but in local government and the Civil Service.

Richard Arthur said it was gratifying that a case which struck a blow for the employment rights of workers should win over those that seek to benefit employers.

"Thompsons and our trade union clients have fought on behalf of millions of workers for their right to be treated with dignity at work. More often than not that fight is against the kind of firms working on behalf of employers who usually get the recognition for awards such as this. I may not be one for accolades, but it is gratifying to have for once turned the tables."

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said:

"I am delighted that Richard Arthur and his team at Thompsons have been given this award for their work on the Beckmann case. It was a long hard battle and there were some that thought we were fighting a lost cause, but their hard work and perseverance paid off. The success of the Beckmann case secured the future pension rights of thousands of workers, not just in health but in local government and the civil service. For those workers it is the difference between life on the poverty line and purchasing a decent pension to enjoy a more secure and comfortable retirement."