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Claire Darwin is a highly regarded specialist in Employment and Discrimination Law. She undertakes related work in the fields of CommercialPublicEducationHuman Rights and EU Law.

Claire was one of eight barristers shortlisted for The Lawyer’s Barrister of the Year Award 2020, for which she received a Commendation in November 2020. She was named as one of the UK’s “Hot 100 Lawyers” by The Lawyer magazine in January 2020, and was shortlisted for Employment Junior of the Year in the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2020.  In 2019 she was shortlisted for both Employment Junior of the Year and Public Law Junior of the Year in the Legal 500 UK Awards.

Claire is recognised as a leading barrister for EmploymentEducation, and Public Law by the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. The Legal 500 2021 lists her as one of the top twelve leading employment juniors at the London Bar. According to recent editions of the Directories, Claire is a “go-to barrister” who “has a completely forensic understanding of her cases” and “always gives it her all.” The Directories highlight that she is a “fearsome advocate”, “an excellent cross-examiner” and “insightful, sharp and responsive.”

In June 2017 Claire was appointed to the Attorney General’s A Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown, a small panel of barristers appointed to advise and represent the UK government in its most complex civil and EU cases. She has also been appointed to the Attorney General’s Panel of Special Advocates, and to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Panel of Preferred Counsel. Claire was called to the Bar of Ireland on 19 July 2018, and is a member of the Law Library of Ireland.

Claire’s advocacy experience includes over 30 reported cases, including cases in the European Court of Human Rights and the UK Supreme Court.  A selected list of her significant cases is available here.

  • Recent Work

    Highlights of Claire’s recent work include:

    • Heskett v Secretary of State for Justice [2021] ICR 110, [2021] IRLR 132, Court of Appeal: when costs factors can constitute a legitimate aim for the purposes of justifying indirect discrimination. Lead counsel for Secretary of State.
    • Gwynedd Council v Barratt and another [2020] IRLR 847, Employment Appeal Tribunal: requirements of fair redundancy exercise undertaken by maintained schools. Sole counsel for successful claimants. Due to be heard by the Court of Appeal in 2021.
    • Acting for The Pensions Regulator in a test case re the automatic enrolment of gig economy workers in a pension scheme.
    • Heal v Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford and others [2020] ICR 1294, Employment Appeal Tribunal: whether reasonable adjustment to grant leave under Contempt of Court Act 1981 to make an unofficial recording of an ET hearing.
    • Samira Ahmed v BBC, high profile equal pay claim against the BBC, see here and here for examples of media coverage. Sole counsel for Claimant.
    • Acting for Swansea University in proceedings brought by its former Vice Chancellor and three others, see here and here for examples of media coverage.
    • Graysons Restaurants Ltd v Jones and others [2019] IRLR 649, [2019] 3 All ER 688, [2019] ICR 1342: appointed as amicus curiae to the Court of Appeal, on the interaction between TUPE and equal pay law with the insolvency protection scheme.


  • Discrimination and Equal Pay

    Claire’s discrimination work spans the fields of employment, goods and services, premises, education, and public law. She has handled many high-stakes discrimination cases in the Employment Tribunal, the County Court and the High Court, including a number of group/multi-party claims. Claire is currently advising a number of the UK’s largest retailers on equality issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. She regularly acts in very high value City cases. Recent examples include representing a senior executive whose sex discrimination claim settled for just over £2 million on the eve of a 7-day trial in Spring 2020, and representing an LLP member whose claims settled for approximately £4 million mid-trial in late 2020. Claire is also instructed in judicial review claims which raise discrimination law issues, a high-profile recent example being the challenge to the Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 which resulted in the Regulations being revoked in February 2021.

    Claire has a particular interest, and experience in, age, sex and disability discrimination claims. She acted for the Ministry of Justice in the challenges to the compulsory retirement age for judges and lay members, and was lead counsel in Heskett v Secretary of State for Justice [2021] ICR 110 in the EAT and Court of Appeal on the justification of indirect age discrimination.  She represented the College of Policing (the professional body for the police in England and Wales) in a series of sex and disability discrimination claims in 2019/20 challenging the medical standards applied to Authorised Firearms Officers (see here for an example of media coverage).

    Claire has valuable experience of acting in lengthy multi-party equal pay cases in the public and private sectors. She was appointed as amicus curiae to the Court of Appeal in Graysons Restaurants Ltd v Jones and others [2019] 3 All ER 688, an appeal concerning the interaction between the equal pay provisions in the Equality Act 2010, and the insolvency protection scheme under the ERA 1996.

  • Employment Law

    Claire has a wealth of experience of litigating substantial employment disputes and is equally comfortable acting for claimants and respondents/defendants. Her practice covers all areas of individual and collective employment law, including whistleblowing, pay and contractual disputes, and she is well versed in the full range of statutory employment claims.  Claire  has wide experience of industrial relations issues including collective bargaining, industrial action and statutory recognition applications before the Central Arbitration Committee. She also acts in claims arising from director, LLP and partnership disputes, notably Tiffin v Lester Aldridge (on partnership status).

    Much of Claire’s work concerns the human rights aspects of employment law, including cases about freedom of expression, non-discrimination, forced labour, workplace privacy, open justice and fair trial rights. She was sole counsel for PwC in Ameyaw v PricewaterhouseCoopers Services Limited [2019] ICR 976 on the ET’s power to remove a judgment from the public register of judgments and acted for the successful appellant in Hill v Governing Body of Great Tey Primary School [2013] ICR 691, one of the leading cases on freedom of expression in the workplace. She has acted for foreign governments claiming sovereign immunity in the English courts, and has advised on matters of human rights and discrimination law arising in other common law jurisdictions.

    Claire does a great deal of work in the areas of employment law which intersect with EU Law. She was junior counsel in the Supreme Court (led by Nicholas Randall QC) in Walker v Innospec Ltd & Ors [2017] 4 All ER 1004 on whether an exception in the Equality Act 2010 was compatible with EU Law. She has a particular interest in and experience of very high value multi-party TUPE litigation, having appeared in a number of important cases on TUPE including Rynda (UK) Ltd v Ms A Rhijnsburger [2013] All ER (D) 73 (Sep) and Enterprise Management Services Ltd v Connect-Up Ltd [2012] IRLR 190. Claire has experience of acting in cases in which a reference to the European Court of Justice is sought, and as a full member of the Irish Bar she has retained her rights of audience before the EU Courts.

  • Public Law and Judicial Review

    Claire is a member of the Attorney General’s A Panel and has been instructed in a wide range of public law cases both for and against local and central government, particularly cases which raise issues of discrimination and EU Law.  Her recent public law work has included acting for an intervener in a challenge to the Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 which resulted in the Regulations being revoked in February 2021 (see here for an example of media coverage), the judicial review of the 2018 pay award for 120,000 police officers (led by Helen Mountfield QC), and representing Govia in the judicial review claim brought by Southern rail commuters alleging disability discrimination.

  • Education Law

    Claire regularly advises and represents schools, colleges, universities, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, OFSTED, the Department for Education and individual students in relation to a wide range of education matters, including university regulation and discipline, Ofsted inspections, school closures, enforcement action under the Education and Skills Act 2008, early years provision and local authority interventions. Her recent education work has included successfully representing Leicester University in the Court of Appeal in Thilakawardhana v Office of the Independent Adjudicator and University of Leicester [2018] ELR 223, successfully judicially reviewing a decision by a local authority to amend an EHC Plan in R (S) v Camden Borough Council [2019] ELR 129 and persuading the Upper Tribunal that it had jurisdiction to order an independent school to reinstate a disabled pupil in Proprietor of Ashdown House School v JKL and Another [2019] ELR 530.

  • Appellate Work

    Claire has significant experience of advocacy, advisory and drafting work at appellate level. She has appeared both led and unled in the Court of Appeal, and as junior counsel in matters before the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights. Claire has appeared in dozens of full appeals in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, many of which have been reported.

    Recent highlights of her appellate work include junior counsel in the Supreme Court in Walker v Innospec Ltd and others [2017] UKSC 47; and appearing as sole counsel or lead counsel in five recent Court of Appeal cases: Heskett v Secretary of State for Justice [2020] EWCA Civ 1487, Graysons Restaurants Ltd v Jones [2019] 3 All ER 688 (appointed as amicus curiae to Court of Appeal); Brown v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2019] Costs L.R. 1633; Thilakawardhana -v- Office of the Independent Adjudicator and University of Leicester [2018] ELR 223; and Moorthy v Revenue & Customs Commissioners [2018] 3 All ER 1062.

  • Group Litigation

    Claire has significant experience of complex multi-party/group actions in the Employment Tribunal, County Court and High Court, including:

    • Representing 36 Respondents, including a number of the top-ranked Universities in the UK, in a series of hearings before the Employment Tribunal in 2020/1 to establish whether the Tribunal had jurisdiction to hear sixteen linked sets of proceedings.
    • BBC Equal Pay Claims: counsel for the National Union of Journalists in the BBC equal pay dispute. Successfully represented Samira Ahmed in her high-profile equal pay claim.
    • Trojan Horse Teachers: acting for one of the five senior teachers alleged to have been involved in the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot in 7 1/2 week long hearing before (what is now) the Teachers Regulatory Authority.
    • War Horse litigation: acted for the five War Horse musicians in their High Court claims against the National Theatre, led by James Laddie QC.
    • Judicial retirement age: junior counsel for the Ministry of Justice in a series of test cases challenging the compulsory retirement age of 70.
    • Group litigation by wheelchair users: sole counsel for Arriva during the two-week trial of the disability discrimination claims brought by 16 wheelchair users concerning the use of the wheelchair space on buses. Retained as junior counsel in the Court of Appeal.
  • Other Work

    Claire is interested in law reform. She has advised on and/or contributed to numerous responses to policy consultations. She advised the Government Equalities Office on its 2019 consultation on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

    Claire is often invited to give talks on employment and discrimination law. Recent invitations include speaking to the Employment Law Association of Ireland, the UK Employment Lawyers Association at their Annual Seminar, the European Employment Lawyers Association, and at a conference organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland.

    Claire writes widely on her areas of specialism. She has contributed to a number of leading practitioner texts including Bullen & Leake & Jacob’s Precedents of Pleadings. Her articles have appeared in journals including the Education Law Journal, the New Law Journal and the Industrial Law Journal.

    Since 2019 Claire has been an elected member of the Employment Law Bar Association’s Committee and is the Committee member responsible for the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s pro bono scheme (ELAAS). She is an advocacy trainer for Inner Temple and a pupil supervisor at Matrix. She sits on a Sub-Committee of the Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity Committee, and on the UK Employment Lawyers Association’s International Committee.

  • Education

    Claire studied History at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge University and at Heidelberg University in Germany. She speaks reasonable German and Spanish.

  • Appointments and Awards

    Claire was appointed to the Attorney General’s A Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown in June 2017. She was previously on the B and C Panels.  She has also been appointed to the Attorney General’s Panel of Special Advocates, and to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Panel of Preferred Counsel.

    Claire was named as one of the UK’s “Hot 100 Lawyers” by The Lawyer magazine in January 2020.  She was one of eight barristers shortlisted for The Lawyer’s Barrister of the Year Award 2020, for which she received a Commendation. She was shortlisted for Employment Junior of the Year in the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2020. In 2019 she was shortlisted for both Employment Junior of the Year and Public Law Junior of the Year in the Legal 500 UK Awards.

  • Selected Journal Articles and Books

    Disclosure: Justice & Propriety – 167 NLJ 7768, p17

    Procedural Fairness on Appeal: Is O’Cathail No Longer Good Law? Industrial Law Journal (2016) 45 (3) pp 423-43.

    Contributing Editor of the Education Law Journal from 2012-5.

    Co-author of the chapter on Discrimination at Work in Bullen & Leake & Jacob’s Precedents of Pleadings, 18th edition.

    Editor of the Practical Law Company’s guide to discrimination in the provision of goods and services.

    Co-author of the chapter on the Relationship between Freedom of Information and Data Protection in The Law Society’s Freedom of Information Handbook (3rd edition, December 2012)).

    Contributor to the Human Rights Review 2012, Equality and Human Rights Commission, May 2012.

  • Articles and Downloads
  • Committees / Professional Memberships

    Elected member of the Employment Law Bar Association Committee (ELBA), 2019 – ongoing.

    Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity Committee (sub-committee).

    Association of Partnership Practitioners

    Bar European Group

    Education Law Association

    Employment Lawyers Association (ELA)

    European Employment Lawyers Association (EELA)

    Industrial Law Society

Privacy Notice

Claire is committed to protecting and respecting your privacy. In order to provide legal services to clients, including advice and representation services, Claire needs to collect and hold personal data. This includes her client’s personal data and the personal data of others who feature in the matter upon which she is instructed. To read Claire’s privacy notice in full, please see here.

Claire is regulated by the Bar Standards Board and accepts instructions under Standard Contractual Terms. To find out more information on this and the way we work at Matrix, including our fee transparency statement, please see our see our service standards


“She is absolutely phenomenal in the way she’s always on top of the detail and the law.” “She’s very forensic, pragmatic and client-friendly.” ” She is super responsive, really quick to embrace the unusual areas of law and cuts through the issues very quickly.” “She is incredibly bright and very detailed in her paperwork.” (Chambers UK Bar 2021)

“Great to work with: she’s very thorough, pro-active, approachable and clear.” “Claire fights hard for her clients and has had some tremendous successes. She doesn’t leave a stone unturned.” “Insightful, sharp and responsive.” (Legal 500 2021)

“She has a complete forensic understanding of her cases and will fight to the end.” “She’s prepared to get off the fence and provides very clear and straightforward advice.” “Very knowledgeable in the field, able to come up with very novel points and a good person to have on the team.” (Chambers UK Bar 2020)

“Tenacious and up for a fight; always gives it her all.” (Legal 500 2020)

“Highly experienced advocate who is well known for her strength in discrimination cases and claims concerning TUPE.” “Darwin has a track record of acting in high-profile cases.” “Her decision-making is first class.” “A very good advocate who has very good judgement.” (Chambers UK Bar 2019)

“A go-to barrister who is highly inventive and responsive.” “She is responsive, supportive, inventive, enthusiastic and empathetic.” (Legal 500 2019)

“Forensic and incredibly thorough.” “She’s very approachable and has good rapport with clients. Detailed in her research, she gives clear advice and is always available to speak about cases.” (Chambers UK Bar 2018)

“A highly regarded junior with a fast-developing and varied practice.” (Legal 500 2017)

‘Claire Darwin is widely respected within the market for her expertise in employment and discrimination law, often with human rights and public law elements. She is praised as “responsive, approachable, supportive, imaginative and decisive”. (Who’s Who Legal 2018)

“She is very good for technical discrimination matters”. (Legal 500 2017)

“Highly experienced advocate who is commended by clients for her extensive attention to detail and preparation for her cases. She’s a fearsome advocate and is very approachable.” (Chambers UK Bar 2017)

“Exceptionally bright and hardworking, and undoubtedly one of the leading lights on TUPE and discrimination.” (Legal 500 2016)

“An experienced appellate advocate, who is well known for the strength of her advocacy.”; “A well-prepared adviser and an excellent cross-examiner.” (Chambers & Partners 2016)

“She is incredibly pragmatic and proactive in approaching cases.” (Chambers & Partners 2016)

“She genuinely cares about her clients and their cases, and is not afraid to push boundaries.” (Legal 500 2015)

“A very quick thinker on her feet, she is a rising star at the set.” “A really strong advocate, she knows when and when not to be aggressive.” (Chambers & Partners 2015)

“She is confident and assertive, and takes a proactive approach to case strategy.” (Chambers & Partners 2015)

“Very reliable, and particularly strong in discrimination claims.” (Legal 500 2014)

“She’s very responsive and diligent, particularly on TUPE and discrimination claims.” (Chamber & Partners 2014)

“I would not hesitate to recommend her. She adopts a very proactive approach.” (Chamber & Partners 2014)

“Claire Darwin is a very bright and hardworking junior.” (Legal 500 2013)

“Claire Darwin is frequently instructed in Employment Tribunal and appellate matters by leading firms.” (Chambers & Partners 2013)

“Claire Darwin is gaining an increasing reputation for her appellate work, and has recently appeared before the ECHR.” (Chambers & Partners 2013)

“Recommended juniors include the ‘commercially minded’ Claire Darwin.” (Legal 500, 2012)

“Confident and assertive, she is a real star in the making.” (Chambers and Partners 2012)