Sarah Townsend


Sarah specialises in employment and health and safety law, advising employers and senior executives from a wide range of industries.

Sarah is a specialist employment and health and safety lawyer with 20 years’ experience working in employment law. Having worked both in-house and in private practice, she truly understands clients’ needs and priorities. Sarah advises employers and senior executives from a wide range of industries, including the education sector, agri-business, insurance and construction and enjoys working collaboratively with clients to provide solutions-focused advice.

Sarah’s expertise covers all aspects of employment law, from disciplinary processes, bullying and harassment complaints, remuneration and incentive schemes, restructuring, discrimination claims and dismissals, to drafting employment agreements, advising on Holidays Act obligations and litigating restraint of trade disputes.

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She is 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, Sarah works closely with clients to help them understand and comply with their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and advises and represents organisations following a workplace accident or incident.

Recent highlights

  • Successfully defending personal grievance claims in the Employment Relations Authority and Employment Court for a client I have worked with for a number of years advising them on a range of employment related issues.
  • Advising several large national employers on all aspects of employment law including assisting with disciplinary investigations, large scale restructures, defending personal grievance claims and enforcing restraint of trade obligations.
  • Carrying out complex independent investigations into allegations of bullying and harassment for large public and private sector organisations.
  • Successfully representing Farmlands Cooperative Limited in the Employment Relations Authority and Employment Court 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.

Sarah's insights

Webinar: Immigration law update (Accredited Employer Work Visa)

22 August 2022

Employment newsletter - July

8 July 2024

Insurance law insights featured in GILC Risk Radar report 2024

24 May 2024

We're driven by our values

They drive our client relationships and connections with our community, and underpin our achievements.

He tāngata

  • Member of the Duncan Cotterill board.
  • Authors articles and presents at seminars, conferences and industry events.


  • Member representative for Duncan Cotterill’s TerraLex relationship.
  • Vice Chair of the Nomination and Governance committee for TerraLex.
  • Previously practiced as a solicitor in England and Wales.


  • Recognised as a ‘Leading Practitioner’ in the Best Lawyers New Zealand 2025 directory, for Labour and Employment Law.
  • Recommended lawyer in the Legal 500 Asia Pacific legal directory.

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