Karen Ainslie

Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa Inc

M:+27 84 404 4556

South Africa
T:+27 11 685 8906
South Africa
T:+27 11 685 8906

M:+27 84 404 4556

Karen Ainslie

Karen Ainslie


Related services and key industries


Karen is an employment and labour lawyer based in Johannesburg.

Karen's areas of practice includes advising on small and large scale restructurings (retrenchments), executive dismissals and employment aspects arising from transfers and mergers. She regularly advises on the practical and contractual aspects of Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995, which regulates the transfer of contracts of employment. She has extensive litigation experience and regularly appears in the Labour and Labour Appeal Courts.

Karen regularly undertakes employment equity compliance reviews and has recently provided extensive regulatory advice concerning employers' compliance with COVID-19 regulations. She has been involved in a number of COVID-19 related dismissals and in providing advice regarding mandatory vaccination policies.

Karen holds an LLB (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria. Karen joined the practice in 2002 and was appointed as director at the age of 27.

Karen has been recognised for her outstanding service to clients. Karen was designated as a "Star Lawyer" in the Acritas Star Lawyers survey, published in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021". The Star Lawyer designation is based on feedback from 4,300 clients over a three-year period. Karen is also recognised as a recommended labour and employment lawyer in the Legal 500 Europe, Middle East and Africa guide, 2018 - 2021. Karen was elected as one of the top 3 finalists in the legal sector of CEO Magazine's South Africa's Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards 2011.

Karen is a member of the South African Society for Labour Law (SASLAW) and also regularly assists with SASLAW's pro bono project to provide legal assistance at the Labour Court. Karen has acted as a judge in the Labour Court. She regularly conducts seminars and training workshops and has been invited to comment on employment law developments as a radio guest speaker and in the financial press.

Professional experience

Expand all Collapse all
  • LLB (cum laude) from the University of Pretoria
  • Assisting a large auditing and consulting firm in ensuring that it is compliant with its requirements in terms of the Employment Equity Act, 1998 and assisting client in developing an extensive employment equity plan. Karen also assisted the client in its compliance discussions with the Department of Labour.
  • Advised a large, international auditing firm regarding the introduction and implementation of its mandatory vaccination policy.
  • Successfully assisted a large, international manufacturer in the motor and truck industry with an investigation into misconduct by senior employees and executives and a number of disciplinary hearings and arbitration hearings. 
  • Successfully assisted a large auditing firm with their large scale retrenchment in terms of Section 189A.
  • Assisted Anova Health Institute NPC in relation to its mandatory vaccination policy and advising on the objection process and the resulting incapacity hearings. 
  • Successfully represented AC Nielsen Media and Marketing with a Section 189A(13) application in the Labour Court launched by a senior executive who was challenging the procedural fairness of her retrenchment. We also successfully defended an application launched by the same employee concerning the substantive fairness of her dismissal.
  • Assisting the firm's Mergers and Acquisitions team in advising AB Volvo (publ) relative to the carve-out of the UD Trucks business.
  • Advising Moody's Shared Services UK Limited on various issues concerning the return to work of its employees post-COVID-19.
  • Advising one of the world's leading providers of reinsurance and insurance on a variety of employment and labour related matters, including disciplinary issues and hearings for misconduct and policy advice to ensure compliance with local employment laws.  
  • Assisting UD Trucks in preparing its risk assessment and workplace plan in compliance with COVID-19 regulations. 
  • Advising Mpact Operations (Pty) Ltd regarding an acquisition in terms of Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995.
  • Advising a retailer of designer apparel from an international fashion label on allegations of discrimination and assisting client with an investigation into these allegations.
  • Assisting a local manufacturer of cement, concrete and aggregate products following a Director-General review into its compliance with the Employment Equity Act, 1998.
  • Advising a global management consulting group on its risk assessment and the implementation of a mandatory vaccination policy in the workplace.  
  • Collaborating with global law firms such as Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Simmons & Simmons to assist global clients in aligning terms and conditions of employment with local laws and regulations.
  • In the Acritas Star Lawyers survey, published in January 2018, Karen was designated as a "Star Lawyer". The Star Lawyer designation is based on feedback from 4,300 clients over a three year period.
  • Afrikaans
  • English