Helen Donovan

Special Counsel
Workplace Relations & Safety

Helen is an experienced advocate and litigator in employment and industrial relations disputes.

She regularly advises on employee-related issues associated with business transactions, including potential underpayment claims.

She is frequently asked to conduct sensitive workplace investigations, with considerable experience as a workplace investigator.

Helen provides succinct advice that has regard to industrial and commercial realities, as well as employee engagement - an approach honed by her time working in-house at Suncorp, BHP and BAE Systems Australia.


Helen has experience in:

  • managing unfair dismissal and adverse action claims, including representing clients in conciliation conferences and settling claims
  • representing clients in disputes under enterprise agreements
  • managing payroll reviews, investigations by the Fair Work Ombudsman and associated remediation exercises
  • advising on award coverage and updating contracts of employment to align with award provisions
  • investigating highly sensitive workplace complaints
  • urgent applications in response to industrial action
  • drafting enterprise agreements and advising on approval processes and bargaining strategy
  • representing clients in disputes concerning post-employment restraints, including advising on Anton Piller orders
  • advising on the "golden handshake" provisions in the Corporations Act
  • advising on managing ill and injured employees
  • board presentations on safety due diligence obligations
  • providing training to leadership teams on a range of matters, including workplace investigations, sexual harassment and managing psychosocial hazards

Career Highlights

Helen's recent career highlights include:

  • appearing as an advocate in the Fair Work Commission in unfair dismissal claims, most recently for:
    • Newcrest Mining (see Bwalya v Newcrest Mining Limited [2022] FWCFB 41 - in which Helen successfully argued that an employee's employment was not covered by the Professional Employees Award 2020, a decision that was upheld on appeal)
    • Coles (see Pavicic v Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd [2021] FWC 842 - in which Helen successfully argued that an employee had not been unfairly dismissed)
  • representing clients in disputes under enterprise agreements, most recently for Air BP in a dispute concerning the rate at which annual leave accrues and is deducted from employees' leave balances (see Transport Workers' Union of Australia v Air Refuel Pty Ltd T/A Air BP [2021] FWC 796)
  • conducting a broad range of workplace investigations for a range of public and private sector clients, including investigations under Part 9 of the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 (Qld), referrals from the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission, whistleblower disclosures and allegations involving criminal conduct
  • managing sensitive discrimination claims in the Queensland Human Rights Commission, most recently for clients in the mining, retail and manufacturing industries
  • managing a payroll review and remediation exercise for a manufacturing client
  • successfully resisting good faith bargaining orders and having a majority support determination revoked for a mining client
  • advising and representing a client in an insurance claim relating to underpayments

Throughout her career, Helen has been actively involved in pro bono work.

Insights by Helen