Karen Ainslie

Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa Inc

Karen Ainslie

Karen Ainslie


Related services and key industries


Karen is an employment and labour lawyer based in Johannesburg. She specialises in litigation and regularly appears in the Labour and Labour Appeal Courts. She has extensive experience in reviewing arbitration awards and in unfair discrimination claims.

Karen has vast experience advising on all employment aspects arising from transfers, mergers and the realignment of South African offices with international group offices. 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. Karen advised on a number of major transfers in the telecommunications industry. She was on the team involved with Barclays acquiring Absa and represented South Africa’s largest airport managing company in its successful application before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration’s Essential Services Committee, making her one of only a few practitioners with knowledge in this particular field. Karen acts for a number of South African and African clients in the retail, production, mining and healthcare sectors.

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.

Karen is listed as a recommended labour and employment lawyer in Legal500, 2018. 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 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 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. 

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

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  • Assisted Coca Cola Canners of SA (Pty) Ltd in obtaining an urgent court order interdicting violent conduct during protected strike action.
  • 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.
  • Successfully represented the Volvo Group in an executive dismissal dispute involving both CCMA and Labour Court litigation.
  • Represented General Cable in successfully concluded a large scale retrenchment in terms of section 189A of the Labour Relations Act, 1995.
  • 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.