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People and reward

Helping our clients get the best out of their people.


Bonuses, the war for talent and pensions liabilities are high on the global employer’s agenda. Then there’s corporate governance and ethics, organisational and culture change, the ongoing need to manage employment costs, the digitisation of the workplace and the impact of the gig economy on working relationships generally.

To help clients address these issues, we advise on global HR legal strategies, design and roll out HR policies, review executive pay, co-ordinate redundancy procedures, handle workplace disputes and manage complex pensions matters. We do this for M&A transactions, internal reorganisations and everyday management.

We can also help clients manage any kind of HR crisis, from sensitive terminations to corruption investigations. And they benefit from the way we work with other HR service providers – employment advisors, actuaries or benefits consultants.

All this regardless of where in the world your people are located.

Client successes

The transaction involved 21 Freshfields offices, covered countries in North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, and affected over 200,000 employees at the two companies.

We advised AB InBev on everything from the drafting of the core deal documentation and the communications with SABMiller employees and option-holders, to interactions with the UK Takeover Panel, to consultation processes with employee representative bodies, to the implications of the transaction for AB InBev’s UK pension schemes.

This deal demonstrates our unique ability to provide cross-border advice on all the HR and employment law aspects of complex and high-value corporate transactions.

Read more about the deal in our case study.

This matter shows our ability to be highly flexible in meeting the demands of a fast-paced business with varied and complex arrangements, whether dealing with problems as they may arise or spotting potential risks before they develop into issues.

Our very responsive approach and provision of solutions-based advice allows us to support our client in its decision making processes and the implementation of those decisions.

The transaction structure was complex, varied between countries, and included the transfer and assumption of pensions liabilities in at least 40 jurisdictions (including bulk transfer arrangements certain countries).

In addition to leading on the negotiation of the core transaction documents and on employee information and consultation requirements, we also advised BI on the proposed treatment of pensions issues across the globe.

We were able to draw on unparalleled levels of experience for this transaction, having advised Novartis on its multibillion-pound four-part transaction with GSK in 2014 and 2015, another pharmaceuticals transaction involving complex and bespoke employment and pensions issues across a large number of jurisdictions.

The bank’s internal investigations had found that there may have been breaches of its policies and/or misconduct on the part of a number of its current and former employees in relation to the transactions.

Our employment team advised the bank on:

  • how to suspend and then apply forfeiture to the deferred compensation held by individuals involved in the transactions; and 
  • bringing civil actions against certain individuals for breach of contract and/or breach of fiduciary duties they owed to the bank.

In addition we advised on best practice and legal risks, drafted suspension and forfeiture grounds, and prepared briefings and memoranda for the panels and the bank’s senior management.

Our employment team has advised the bank on a number of other investigations, including:

  • market-wide allegations of manipulation and other improper conduct by traders; and
  • alleged breaches of regulatory requirements in a branch of the bank.

Further it gave follow-up advice in relation to another investigation involving a number of jurisdictions.

The team’s expertise in the incentives field meant it could advise on the full range of employee sanctions in each of these investigations.

We advised the German Football Association on the various employment and data protection law questions that arose from the headline-catching internal investigation into the award of the 2006 Fifa World Cup to the country.