You are here

Profile Photo of Paul Burns

Paul Burns



Paul is one of the leading practitioners in managing complex enterprise bargaining disputes, corporate restructures and employment related litigation.



In the midst of Australia’s volatile industrial relations environment, Paul continues to enhance his reputation as one of the leading practitioners in managing complex enterprise bargaining disputes, corporate restructures and employment related litigation. He is recognised for his strategic thinking and innovative solutions, assisting some of Australia’s leading corporations to achieve their workplace objectives. 

Paul’s practice primarily focuses on strategic workplace reform, dispute management and resolution (both inside and outside of workplace bargaining), employee alignment strategies and the development of tailored, and compliant employment practices and policies. He also regularly advises corporate clients on the employee relations implications of operational restructures, outsourcings, acquisitions and divestments.

His practice is truly national with significant clients based in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, covering a diverse range of industries (including mining, construction, manufacturing, energy, finance, telecommunications, hospitality, and logistics).

Paul is also renowned for his understanding of the complexities inherent in public sector employment arrangements, and has a strong association with government agencies in Victoria and Tasmania.

A particular focus in recent times has been on advising clients on the legal implications of their preferred contracting model, whether it be direct employment, engagement through a third party or a principal/contractor arrangement. Paul’s strategic litigation skills have enabled him to manage the inevitable litigation which arises across the broad spectrum of models utilised by his clients.

Paul also remains experienced with procedures in all courts and industrial tribunals, which is exemplified by the lead advisory role he has played in many landmark industrial cases in the Australian jurisdiction, including: 

  • the High Court decisions concerning the scope and boundaries of the relevant federal and state industrial regimes, in the context of the arbitration powers of the federal tribunal, and the constitutional interaction between federal and state workers’ compensation regimes
  • the rights of unions, employees and employers to collectively bargain or pursue alternative employment arrangements in the federal system
  • the operation of the transmission/transfer of business provisions in the federal industrial regimes in the context of outsourcing arrangements or business restructures
  • defining the boundaries and operation of the ‘freedom of association’ protections afforded to unions and employees for specifically protected activities in the workplace context

Paul has practiced exclusively in employment law since 1991 and has been a Partner since 1998.

Paul is featured in Best Lawyers International for Labour and Employment 2008 - 2014, and was recently recognised in Chambers Asia Pacific 2013 and 2014.


Paul remains an enthusiastic and regular contributor to relevant employment related publications including as an author of the Workplace Relations Handbook, an Introduction to the Industrial Relations Reforms, and Bargaining under the Fair Work Act – Herbert Smith Freehills A Retrospective (volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4).


He holds a combined Arts/Law degree from Monash University, and although based in Melbourne, travels extensively along the east coast to service many of the firm’s strategic corporate clients.