Stephen is Thompsons’ Solicitors chief executive, a role he took on a decade ago. In that time, Stephen has guided Thompsons successfully through a changing legal and political climate to maintain the firm’s reputation as the leading employment rights champions.
Determined to keep the protection and advancement of workers’ rights at the heart of Thompsons philosophy, Stephen is generally acknowledged as one of the UK’s top experts on trade union and employment law. A broad range of publications, organisations, politicians and trade unions regularly seek Stephen’s advice and views.
Stephen writes about and addresses conferences on a myriad of employment law matters, including TUPE – The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations that ensures workers’ conditions are protected on transfer.
As an expert, Stephen has been called to give evidence to various House of Commons committees, such as the Trade Union Bill Committee and the Justice Select Committee on Employment Tribunal Fees. Stephen has also used his extensive knowledge as a witness to the European Parliament Social Affairs committee on the Acquired Rights Directive. Along with others, his expert testimony about the UK’s failure to properly implement the directive into UK law, resulted in the law being subsequently amended.
Only ever representing employees, never employers, Stephen is carrying on the firm’s tradition, established by founder WH Thompson in 1921, of delivering justice for working people and those injured or mistreated at work. Stephen’s guidance and advice is regularly sought by trade union general secretaries, and senior officials on matters of law governing their operations.
Stephen also advised former Labour Governments and Ministers when drafting legislation affecting employment rights, most notably around TUPE and its implementation.
Currently, Stephen is advising the Labour Party and trade unions on policy issues, including Workplace 2020, trade union bills and the Taylor Review into Employment Practices in the Modern Economy.
Stephen joined Thompsons in 1987 as a personal injury lawyer. His talent as a champion of workers’ rights was quickly recognised and he added employment law to his portfolio.
Soon, concentrating solely on employment law Stephen set up Thompsons’ Employment Rights unit in 1995 – the first firm to do so.
A member of the Labour Party and a trade unionist, Stephen takes the side of the workers because of his belief in fair play. Stephen will never stop challenging, is driven by pushing the boundaries of workers’ rights, and rewarded by the victories gained and significant cases won by Thompsons over the years. Friends describe Stephen as dedicated, dynamic and talented, foes describe him as formidable and fearless.
Stephen never stops campaigning, even outside work. Injustice, racism and fascism spur him to take action and he uses his skills to fight them. Supporting organisations such as Justice for Colombia, the anti-racist education group Show Racism the Red Card, Stephen speaks at trade union and Labour events.
But politics can take a back seat when Tottenham Hotspur are playing. A passionate fan, Stephen is a Spurs season ticket holder, cricket watcher and unapologetic ageing punk rocker.
Stephen has dealt with 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.
Ian Lavery MP, Chair of the Labour Party, said:
“I’ve known Steve for a good number of years now both as a friend and a professional. Over the years, Stephen’s expert knowledge of trade union and employment law has helped us in key areas of policy and legislation. Under his leadership, Thompsons has led the field by pushing boundaries and pursuing ground-breaking cases for the benefit of workers. His commitment to workers, unions and the Labour movement shines through and I know we can always turn to him for invaluable advice and support”.