image of Hilary SearingHilary Searing

Clayton Utz Partner , Brisbane T +61 7 3292 7006 https://www.claytonutz.com

Hilary Searing specialises in work health and safety, industrial relations and employment law and advises corporate and government clients in the construction, engineering, oil and gas, mining, electrical, health, transport   and agribusiness industries.  She has particular industrial and safety expertise in large infrastructure projects.

Hilary is skilled in assisting clients with finding pragmatic and commercial solutions within legal parameters. She is approachable, strategic and commercially focused.

Hilary is frequently called on to assist clients in dealing with safety incidents as they arise, including advising on appropriate incident response and regulatory compliance, as well as appropriate contractor management to minimise risk, and assists clients in defending workplace health and safety prosecutions.

She has a sound understanding of litigious processes and is well versed in managing large high-profile litigation matters with numerous defendants.

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Expertise

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Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety

Workplace health and safety

Hilary is skilled in regulatory compliance and incident response and assists clients in dealing with safety incidents as they arise, including defending safety prosecutions.

WHS governance is becoming an increasingly important area of focus. Hilary assists clients with how to make sure their safety governance systems are suited to the business and allow their officers to meet their due diligence obligations.  She also trains officers in how to discharge their obligations.

With the changing face of workplaces, the ability to manage contractors efficiently, effectively, safely and cost effectively has become a business critical skill.  Hilary also provides clients with practical advice, training and support on contractor management, including strategies for cost reduction and risk management and tools to ensure effective contractor engagement and management.

Highlights include:

  • Department of Transport and Main Roads – Toowoomba Bypass: Hilary was part of the team that provided ongoing work health and safety and industrial relations advice in relation to the management of the State's response to the performance of the contractor on the Toowoomba Bypass, including developing and reviewing management plans, advising on regulatory compliance, responding to statutory notices, contractual claims and risk management, as well as industrial relations concerns on the Project.
  • APLNG project: Advised on various aspects of the APLNG project, including upstream and downstream operations; compliance and governance, safety and employment matters, including advising on the complex interaction between applicable safety legislation in the LNG sector and its implication for major construction projects.
  • ConocoPhillips: Provided advice to a number of ConocoPhillips business units in relation to industrial strategy, employment matters and WHS obligations, including advising on the Curtis Island Major Hazard Facility.
  • Origin: Advised on a number of health and safety matters on oil and gas projects for Origin Energy, including reviewing safety management plans for various operating plant, and advising on appropriate incident response and regulator engagement.
  • Powerlink: Advised Powerlink on a number of safety matters, including responding to electrical safety incidents and dealing with the Electrical Safety Regulator.  Hilary has also been requested by Powerlink to act for individual employees in relation to safety incident response and support Regulator interviews.

Employment & Industrial Relations

Hilary provides strategic advice to a number of corporate and government entities in relation to industrial and employment law matters, including right of entry disputes, industrial action, enterprise agreement negotiations and dispute resolution, award interpretations, termination and restructuring procedures and transfer of business.

  • Minister of Economic Development Queensland (EDQ): Assisted EDQ to manage relationships among the State, regulators, the developer, contractors, subcontractors, unions, and co-workers for the development of the Commonwealth Games Village.  With multiple parties on adjacent sites, complex industrial and safety issues, and a large contingent of workers expected to attend to construction, Hilary assisted with a decisive and well-considered industrial strategy for delivering the project on time, on budget and with minimal risk.
  • Queensland State Government: Assisting in relation to the privatisation of the Port of Brisbane. Hilary also assisted with employment related matters in the due diligence process during the privatisation of QR National.
  • Queensland Health and Hospital and Health Services: Hilary has advised Queensland Health and a number of HHS in a variety of employment and industrial relations matters including unfair dismissals, discrimination and investigations.
  • Queensland Children's Hospital (QCH): Hilary assisted Abigroup Contractors Pty Ltd to resolve a 9 week unlawful work stoppage at the QCH, return the workers to work and resolve the matter.  Hilary co-ordinated the day to day running of the matter, which included applications to the Federal Circuit Court for injunctions to prevent unlawful industrial action as well as contempt charges for breach of those orders.
  • Optus: Assisted Optus in relation to a variety of employment and industrial relations matters including unfair dismissals, discrimination and adverse action claims.
  • Fair Work Building & Construction – Grocon Common Ground Dispute: Assisted the (then) FWBC prosecute the CFMEU and five union officials in the Federal Court that resulted in one of the highest ever penalties of $400,000 being awarded against the CFMEU under the relevant legislation. Statements from this case were quoted in Parliament by the Coalition in support of their proposal to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).  

See Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety

Digital Economy

  • Advised on a complex case involving sexual harassment and assault allegations which have involved consideration of the cross-over of out of hours conduct, personal social media accounts and work and has been integral in advising on all aspects of the investigation, suspension of the employee, show cause and disciplinary process to date.
  • We assisted a large construction company with a claim for bullying and harassment. The applicant had accused the organisation and their supervisor of bullying and taking adverse action against them for refusing to allow them to undertake sensitive client work during their commute and lodged both a general protections claim in the Fair Work Commission and a complaint with the Safety Regulator. We investigated the incident, and successfully defended the client in the Fair Work Commission. We also undertook a review of the client's psychosocial hazards, including the controls for remote working, and drafted a psychosocial risk assessment and risk register to assist in demonstrating to the Safety Regulator that our client had complied with its obligations to identify and manage the risks of bullying it its workplace, so far as reasonably practicable, and ensure a safe place of work.

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