1967- 74: Matthew Humberstone Comprehensive School in Cleethorpes


1974 -77: Gained a scholarship to Lincoln College, Oxford where he graduated with First Class Honours


1977-78: Bachelor of Civil Law at Lincoln College


1978-79: Bar vocational course.  Awarded Harmsworth major scholarship





Ø  Called to the Bar in 1979

Ø  Took Silk in 1998.

Ø  Member of Littleton Chambers.

Ø  Awarded Chambers and Partners Employment Silk of the Year (2010)


Acting for both employers and employees, John has a stellar employment practise with a recent emphasis on equal pay cases, and a significant experience of cases involving TUPE, human rights law, unfair dismissal, discrimination and the employment aspects of the reorganisation of companies. He also practices in the fields of judicial review and education. In the latter field he is named in the main legal directories as highly recommended. He has acted in most of the major industrial disputes over the past decades including the 1984 Miners Strike, the 1989 Docks Dispute, the News International Wapping dispute, numerous rail disputes and Gate Gourmet.


Landmark cases include an European Court of Human Rights application on the employment of gay servicemen, House of Lords rulings on injury to feelings awards and the dates of outsourcing for TUPE purposes, the Supreme Court decision on whether legal representation is required in internal disciplinary proceedings and the largest ever Employment Tribunal application by 12,000 retained firefighters, which eventually was decided by House of Lords. At present he is dealing with a working time case in the Court of Justice of the European Union. He also appeared in the European Court of Human Rights on a closed shop case. He is regularly instructed by the Christian Institute and is about to represent them in a Supreme Court case on the employment status of volunteers.


John is a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission panel of approved counsel.


John has acted on several occasions as a designated independent person for adjudicating disputes between Chief Executives of local authorities and the respective employing Council and has also acted as advocate in such disputes.

He has also appeared in many sports cases (including one for the FA Premier League who were being sued by Vinnie Jones) and represented the Football Association in 2004 when they were considering the position of Sven Goran Erikson as England manager.


He has the fourth largest number of reported cases in Industrial Relations Law Reports since the outset of that law report in 1971 and the third highest in respect of those still practising.





A frequent lecturer on employment law, John has written 15 books including Bowers on Employment Law, now in its Seventh Edition, The Law of Industrial Action and Trade Union Recognition and Whistleblowing. The latter two are recognised as the leading works in their field.


He has been an author of Blackstones’ Employment Law Practice (OUP) every year from 2006 until now (having formerly been its General Editor) and is a frequent contributor to the Law Society Gazette, New Law Journal and the Industrial Law Journal. One article in the Industrial Law Journal on the meaning of “some other substantial reason” in unfair dismissal law written in 1981 10 ILJ 34 is regularly quoted in academic treatises and judgments. He also co wrote an article in the same journal on discrimination and justification 31 ILJ 34. He sits on the Editorial Board of Equal Opportunities Law Reports.


He was also the first general editor of the work The Law of Transfer of Undertakings published by Lexis Nexis. He is an editor of Atkins Court Forms and used to edit the Employment section of Bullen & Leake on Pleadings. A full list of books appears below.


He is often invited to speak by a range of organisations including the Employment Law Bar Association, Industrial Law Society, Lexis Nexis and Employment Lawyers Association throughout England and Scotland, and has also lectured at various European conferences. He has led seminars on three occasions to the annual Conference of Employment Judges  and has lectured widely on the Human Rights Act, including to the Judicial Studies Board (now known as the Judicial College) , when the Act was first implemented.





Ø  1979: Taught part time as a weekend tutor for four years at Lincoln, St. Hugh’s College and Christ Church, Oxford.

Ø  Occasional part time teaching at the Middlesex Polytechnic (now Middlesex University), the Polytechnic of Central London (now University of Westminster), University of Greenwich and University of Leicester.

Ø  1989-92: External examiner at Middlesex University.

Ø  2008: Appointed Visiting Professor in Law at the University of Hull


He judges University Moots at Middle Temple and has sat on University disciplinary bodies, as well as regularly acting in court for various universities, including Reading, Lancaster and University and King’s Colleges, London. He has successfully defended two race discrimination claims against the University of Oxford. He has acted for several state schools and has defended discrimination claims in educational institutions, including Westminster School. He is regularly consulted on faith school issues.





Ø  Began his judicial career as an employment tribunal judge and was soon appointed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Ø  2002: Recorder on the Midlands Circuit on both civil and criminal cases

Ø  2010: Appointed as a Deputy High Court Judge with both an Administrative Court and Queens Bench Division “ticket”. This involves some five weeks sitting a year. As such he normally hears primarily employment, immigration and education disputes. Several of his judgments have been reported in law reports.





A   CEDR (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) trained mediator, John was the coordinator of the Workplace Mediation Project which researched the use of mediation especially in sexual harassment cases. He occasionally lectures on mediation.







John is a former Chair of the Employment Law Bar Association and for three years he chaired the Employment  Appeal Tribunal Users’ Group.


He has been an active member of various other legal committees, including the Industrial Law Society and the Employment Lawyers Association (of which he chaired the Law and Parliamentary committees). He regularly advises the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on labour law issues and was a member of their Employment Law Policy Committee for four years.


He used to sit as a chair of Bar Disciplinary Summary Tribunals (until they were abolished) and was for some years on the Bar Council’s Race Relations Committee.


Since 2005 he has been a Bencher of Middle Temple (and a member both of its Estates and Student  Affairs Committees). He is also involved in the Middle Temple Oxford University Society and regularly takes Oxford students on familiarisation visits to his Chambers, known as mini pupillages

Ethical standards


Ø  1998 -2003: appointed to Home Office Task Force on Human Rights.

Ø  2001- 2005: member of Standards Board for England (the Regulator of ethical standards in local government).

Ø  2010 – 2012: member of the Standards Committee of the Metropolitan Police Authority, until its recent abolition.




He worked with the Runneymede Trust, which promotes community cohesion and co-authored with his wife an early pioneering work on affirmative action for the Fabian Society.


In 2006 he sat on a committee for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives  under Sir Michael Bishard which considered the relationship between chief executives and council leaders. The report was entitled United We Stand.


He serves as a trustee of a foundation (including a flourishing school) which promotes understanding between Jews and Arabs. His role there has included substantial involvement in fundraising activity, including contacting donors.


Business and  Arts


Since 2010 he has been a member of the board of directors of the Kessler Foundation which is the majority shareholder in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper. In this capacity he has been involved in various business, pension and employment issues.


He was recently involved in setting up a fellowship and endowment at the Ben Uri Art Gallery and is currently involved in a heritage preservation project in Lincolnshire.





He was for many years an Honorary Legal Advisor at Turnpike Lane Advice Centre and Camden Law Centre. He currently carries out work for the Bar Pro Bono Unit and the ELAAS (Employment Law Advice and  Assistance Scheme) in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. For the former he is a reviewer who determines which cases should be supported.


For six years he was Honorary Legal Adviser for Public Concern at Work, the whistleblower’s charity.









John was described by the Chambers and Partners Legal Directory in 2009:


“The extremely clever and cuttingly funny John Bowers QC is recommended for his second-to-none interpretation of statutes. TUPE and equal pay are particular

areas of expertise and he has been representing 15 councils, facing more than 15,000 equal pay claims between them”...

...“Exceedingly well prepared and highly assured in court” as well as having the ability to work “sympathetically with his client and their objectives”.


The legal directories have quoted clients who have praised John for his “towering intellect” while one was quoted as saying he has “a brain the size of a planet”.


He was described, in a book review, as “an employment law rock star” and as  highly approachable and a team player”.


A client in a recent tribunal case commented: “What a pleasure it has been for me to be acquainted with someone who so keenly demonstrates what the profession should be all about”. (Jeff Heller, Associate General Counsel. BP Legal).




1. Modern Law of Strikes (1987) now known as The Law of Industrial Action and Trade Union Recognition (with Michael Duggan) OUP 2011

2. Atkins Court Forms Volume 38 1986 (with B A Heppl ), Butterworths, and 1991, 1995, 2003, 2007 and 2011

3. Termination of Employment, 1998, 1991 Second Edition, Longmans; 2010 Third edition with C. Davis, Wildys

4. The Employment Act 1988 (with S Auerbach), Blackstone Press.

5. Employment Tribunal Procedure 1987, 1994, 1999 Longmans, Second Edition with D Brown & G Mead: regularly revised. Now republished by OUP every year since 2005, as Blackstones Employment Law Practice

6. The Employment Law Manual 1998 (Chapter on Tribunals) - Sweet & Maxwell.

7. Transfer of Undertakings Encyclopedia: first published as The Legal Pitfalls, 1996 (with Mr Justice Elias), now in Sixth Edition (with various other authors) - Sweet & Maxwell (regularly updated).

8. Getting a New Job - Consumer Association, 1981.

9. Bowers on Employment Law, Seventh Edition 2004 OUP; now known as Practical Approach to Employment Law. Currently eighth edition 2008

10. Basic Procedure in Courts and Tribunals - (with E Misra) Longmans, 1990; republished in 2011 by Wildys

11. Textbook on Employment Law - (with S. Honeyball) OUP, Eleventh Edition 2010

12. Employment Law Update  (with A. Goraj) Blackstone 1991

13. Whistleblowing the New Law (with J. Lewis, M. Fodder and J. Mitchell)  OUP 2nd edition 2012

14. Employment Law and Human Rights (with J. Lewis) Sweet and Maxwell 2000 

15. Atkins Court Forms on Discrimination and Employment, 2011 Lexis Nexis  

16. Bullen & Leake on Pleadings, Sweet & Maxwell 1995 Edition on Employment


He has written articles for the Modern Law Review, Law Society Gazette and Industrial Law Journal.