31 Market Street, Sydney
NSW 2000, Australia
Michael is the Chairman and Senior Team Leader of Harmers Workplace Lawyers, and has 35 years’ experience in workplace relations. During this time he has provided legal and strategic advice in a number of major enterprise bargaining and change management initiatives and has built up extensive experience and expertise in all of the firm’s practice areas. This has included the conduct of some of the leading cases in Australia on sex discrimination and sexual harassment.
Michael’s background includes managing a major industrial law practice as a partner in one of Australia’s largest law firms and previously having been:
- Research Officer to Presidential members of the then Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (undertaking legal, economic and arbitral research and advice work initially for Sir John Moore and later Mr Justice Maddern);
- Solicitor for the New South Wales Department of Industrial Relations (advice and prosecution work in industrial relations, employment and occupational health and safety);
- Industrial Officer for a private sector employer (oil industry); and
- Research Officer for one of Australia’s largest unions.
Michael has extensive advocacy and negotiation experience in relevant Federal and State Tribunals. His practice places special emphasis on the preventive law approach in assisting clients in the informed management of a range of human rights, WHS and employment issues. Michael is also recognised for his specialist advice concerning the employment of senior executives.
In 1996 Michael established Harmers Workplace Lawyers, which is currently one of the largest standalone workplace relations practices in Australia with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The firm won the 2015 & 2016 Australasian Law Awards for “Employment Law Specialist Firm of the Year”; was previously 7 times winner of the ALB “Employment Specialist Firm of the Year”; the Legal Media Group Euromoney Australasian Women in Business Law Awards for “Best Firm for Work-Life Balance” 2014 and “Best Firm in Sydney for Women in Business Law” 2012 & 2013. The firm has also received a number of people management awards including a “Workplace Excellence” Award from the Victorian government; an Award for “Innovative Contribution to HR” from the Australian Institute of Management; the Australian Human Resources Institute Award for “Excellence in People Management”; and has been ranked as high as the number 4 business in the country in the Work/Life Initiative in Australian Industry survey.
Michael Harmer was also individually ranked in the Australasian Legal Business 2012 “HOT 40” List (the ALB’s annual showcase of Australian and NZ top private practice lawyers); and has featured as a “Leading Australian Employment Lawyer” in both Chambers Global and the Asia Pacific Legal 500 for over a decade. The firm has won the Global Law Experts Practice Area Award, and the CorporateINTL Global Award as “Labour & Employment Law Firm of the Year in Australia” (2011-2015, and, with Michael receiving more nominations than any other Australian lawyer in 2011).
According to the 2007/2008 Asia Pacific Legal 500 Survey: “Chairman Michael Harmer is well respected by clients and peers alike and receives the highest accolades”.
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Corporate Social Responsibility
Michael is the President of the Australian Institute of Employment Rights (AIER), a tripartite organisation independent of government or any particular interest group. Its membership and governance structures include representation from employers, employees, academics and lawyers who have an interest in promoting positive workplace relationships in the public interest. The firm continues to be a major supporter of the work of the AIER.
In excess of 25% of the firm’s profits in its first 20 years of operation have been contributed to the promotion of human rights and justice internationally – including support for a number of schools, hospitals and community services in Africa and indigenous Australia. This has involved a particular focus on the promotion of the rights of women.