Gillian Service

Partner Kaiurungi


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Gillian specialises in people risk management for businesses. She is sought after for both her legal advice and thought leadership on complex and high-value matters affecting people in the workplace. She is an expert in employment, industrial relations, health and safety, privacy, human rights, and discrimination.

Her clients comprise some of New Zealand’s leading companies and their boards of directors. She advises on union issues and collective bargaining across many sectors including transport, oil and gas, retail, health and aged care, public services, financial services, and customer services. A seasoned litigator, Gillian regularly represents her clients throughout the mediation process and at all levels of the court system.

Gillian is passionate about the future of work and the challenges organisations face both locally and globally. She is a highly regarded thought leader on flexible working and worker status, complex pieces of legislation such as the Holidays Act, and strategic industrial relations issues. She is a regular speaker at the New Zealand Law Society’s biennial Employment Law Conference, including designing and chairing the event. Gillian has also designed the GuideME programme, a suite of training products to assist organisations in navigating the legal system as it applies to workplaces.

Recognised as a leading employment lawyer by many top legal directories, Gillian is valued by clients for her warm, knowledgeable, and pragmatic approach to solving their problems. As one client says, she "delivers concise and easily understandable advice…reflects the legal landscape and provides me with the right level of detail and legalese." – Chambers Asia-Pacific 2022. She has also been described as "…an outstanding lawyer. She understands the nature of industry and the challenges that come with it. I have absolute confidence in her." – Chambers Asia-Pacific 2020.

Following her curiosity about different work models to enable more people to get into work, Gillian is a 4 Day Week Global Ambassador and a Trustee of The Warehouse Group’s NZ Future Skills Fund (a trust designed to expand the skill sets of workers into different areas including the digital economy).

Gillian has international experience having practised employment law at McGrigors (now Pinsent Mason) in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.

Career highlights

Successfully representing Madison Recruitment Limited (part of NZX listed Accordant Group) in an Employment Court case brought by New Zealand's largest union. The case challenged the legitimacy of Madison’s labour-hire model, and the result was critical for the company. We succeeded in defending the claim and opposing the union’s applications for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Providing ongoing support and advice to The Warehouse Group on contentious and non-contentious matters, including union disputes, strikes, collective bargaining, privacy breach responses, workplace investigations, Holidays Act compliance, whistle-blower complaints, and incentive schemes. Recently we provided urgent strategic advice on The Warehouse Group’s COVID-19 response. It was one of the first to offer employee incentives to encourage vaccination and entered the Government approved trial of Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT).

Acting for Fonterra in a high-stakes interim reinstatement application in the Employment Court made by a former employee who had been dismissed on the grounds of incompatibility. We successfully persuaded the Court to maintain the position put in place by the Employment Relations Authority that the workforce could continue without disruption.

Assisting NZX listed Metlifecare with the acquisition of six retirement villages across the North Island of New Zealand. This complex transaction involved multiple unions, collective bargaining issues, vulnerable employees, and work visa variations. We provided consistent, clear, and commercially pragmatic advice and support, including using technology to assist Metlifecare in issuing new employment agreements to all transferring employees in a tight timeframe – utilising our relationship with Law Hawk to enable Metlifecare to meet commercial deadlines of the transaction.

Providing significant strategic support on employment and union matters as New Zealand's only refinery transitioned to an import terminal. Key workstreams led by the team were advising on union collective bargaining strategy, complex redundancy issues arising from a significant workforce downsizing which had a major impact on its multigenerational workforce, and standing up a new employment relations framework including the complete suite of employment documentation.

Providing strategic advice to the board of Go Bus and managing collective bargaining and industrial action (including strikes and lockouts) affecting the company’s network in the North Island. The advice extended to strategic communications, suspension of striking workers and supporting the business through facilitation with the Employment Relations Authority to resolve the industrial dispute.

Achieving a successful outcome for 2degrees in its proactive review of Holidays Act compliance which included obtaining support from the regulator on the company's approach without the need for enforceable undertakings.

  • Trustee, The Warehouse Group, NZ Future Skills Fund
Achievements and recognition
  • Band 1, Employment, Chambers Asia-Pacific
  • Leading Individual, Labour and Employment, The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific
  • Tier 1 team, Labour and Employment, The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific
  • Recognised, Labour and Employment Law, Best Lawyers
  • Leading Individual, Employment Law, Doyles Guide
  • Leading Individual, Labour and Employment, Expert Guides: Women in Business Law