Sarah Townsend


I am a specialist employment and health and safety lawyer, and enjoy working collaboratively with clients to provide solutions-focused advice. Having worked both in-house and in private practice, I truly understand clients’ needs and priorities. I advise employers and senior executives from a wide range of industries, including the education sector, agri-business, insurance and construction.

My expertise covers all aspects of employment law, from disciplinary processes, bullying and harassment complaints, restructuring, discrimination claims and dismissals, to drafting employment agreements, advising on Holidays Act obligations and litigating restraint of trade disputes. Clients have described me as "outstanding and leads her team to provide the same level of support." (Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2022)

I am also regularly engaged by organisations to carry out independent investigations into complaints of bullying and harassment that have been raised in their workplace. 

From a health and safety perspective, I work closely with clients to help them understand and comply with their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and also to advise and represent organisations following a workplace accident or incident.  

My recent experience includes:

  • Advising a large national employer on all aspects of employment law including assisting with disciplinary issues, defending personal grievance claims and drafting workplace policies.
  • Carrying out complex independent investigations into allegations of bullying and harassment.
  • Advising a large PCBU in a highly safety sensitive industry on its project into managing its overlapping health and safety duties with the hundreds of PCBUs it interacts with.
  • Successfully representing Farmlands to prevent an employee from pursuing employment claims against them.
  • Advising a NZX listed business in financial distress on employment aspects of the sale of its business, including advising on transfer and redundancy obligations.

I am recognised as a recommended lawyer in the Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2022 legal directory; and regularly write articles, present seminars and speak at conferences and industry events on employment and health and safety issues. I am a member of Duncan Cotterill's board, I co-ordinate the Employment Relations Special Interest Group for the Canterbury Branch of HRINZ, and I am also admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales.