Labour Rights Institute


John Hendy QC

Honorary Professor in Labour Law

John Hendy

Professor John Hendy QC joined the Faculty in September 2011. He is a barrister and QC practicing from Old Square Chambers, Gray’s Inn, London. His core areas of specialisation and interest are industrial relations and contractual employment law.

The focus of his professional life has been the advancement and protection of trade union and workers’ rights. Indeed, he has been in most of the leading industrial action cases over the last 30 years from the key cases of Duport Steels Ltd. v Sirs [1980] I.C.R. 161 (HL); Express Newspapers Ltd. v McShane [1980] AC 672 (HL) and Dimbleby & Sons Ltd v National Union of Journalists [1984] ICR 386 (HL) in the 1980s to the most recent cases on the subject: Metrobus Ltd v UNITE [2010] 1 ICR 173 (CA); British Airways v UNITE (No.1) [2010] IRLR 423 (HC); RMT v EDF Energy [2010] EWCA Civ 173 (CA) (upholding [2010] IRLR 114 in the HC); British Airways v UNITE (No.2)[2010] ICR 1316 (CA); Malone v British Airways [2011] ICR 125 (CA); RMT v SercoASLEF v London & B’ham Rly [2011] IRLR 399 (CA). The last case has changed the landscape on industrial action law by making it significantly harder for employers to injunct unions from carrying out the democratic mandate of their members.

He has taken a number of important trade union rights cases to the European Court of Human Rights (UNISON v UK [2002] IRLR 497 on the right to strike; Wilson, Palmer etc v UK [2002] IRLR 568 on the right to trade union representation; and ASLEF v UK [2007] IRLR 361 on trade union freedom to expel fascists).

Last year he drafted an application to the ECtHR on behalf of RMT challenging the leglislative bar on all forms of sympathetic industrial action, and this year has drafted four applications: one on behalf of UNITE’s cabin crew challenging the State’s failure to give protection against action short of dismissal for exercising the right to strike; one on behalf of the POA challenging the legislative prohibition on organising industrial action amongst prison officers; one on behalf of a member of UCATT blacklisted by reason of his trade union activities but unprotected by the Blacklisting Regulations (or any law); the fourth is on behalf of the NUJ, challenging the bar on ‘secondary’ industrial action against a parent company which dictates employment terms to small subsidiaries. All seven cases concern trade union rights under Article 11.

He was one of the founder members of the Free Representation Unit which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2012. Each year, including 2011, he raises money for FRU by sponsorship of his ride in a 110 km cycle race. He set up and worked full-time as Director of the Newham Rights Centre (a law centre in east London) from 1973-6.

He was Chair of the Employment Law Bar Association from 2003-5. He was Head of his Chambers from 1999-2008. He is a member of the Bar of New South Wales, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Legal Study, and a Bencher of Gray’s Inn.

He writes extensively on trade union rights, from a national, international, and human rights perspective. 

Other Interests 

John Hendy is Standing Counsel retained by 8 trade unions:

  • Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen
  • Communication Workers’ Union
  • National Union of Journalists
  • National Union of Mineworkers
  • National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers
  • Prison Officers’ Association
  • UNITE the Union
  • University and College Union

John’s dedication is not confined to his professional life and in his unpaid time he fulfils the following positions:

  • Visiting professor in the School of Law, King’s College, London
  • Visiting professor in the Faculty of Law, University College, London
  • President, International Centre for Trade Union Rights
  • Chair, Institute of Employment Rights
  • Secretary, United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Union Laws


Professor Hendy is researching in the following areas:

  • Trade union rights and collective labour relations
  • The contractual dimensions of the employment relationship
  • International Labour Law


Labour Law – latest publications

  • “Agreement to Unilateral Variation! How far can the employer go to reserve the right to change terms and conditions?” [2011] ILJ forthcoming (with F Reynold);
  • “The Dramatic Implications of Demir and Baykara” [2010] 39 ILJ 2 (with KD Ewing);
  • Liberty, Equality, Solidarity - A Manifesto for Trade Unionists, Institute of Employment Rights 2011 (with KD Ewing);
  • Days of Action: the Legality of Protest Strikes against Government Cuts, Institute of Employment Rights 2011 (with KD Ewing);

Please see here for a full list of John Hendy's publications.