Aileen McColgan QC

Professional Summary

Called 2001 Appointed QC 2020

Contact Details

E T +44 (0)20 7632 8500 Clerk Tom Street Clerk Christopher Smith E

Aileen specialises mainly in public and employment law, and has particular interests in education matters and in discrimination, equality and human rights law. She is internationally recognised as a leading academic in discrimination, equality and human rights law and is very widely published in these areas and in employment law generally. She is also actively involved in privacy, data protection and freedom of information work as well as in election law and law relating to political parties. She has extensive experience in conducting internal inquiries across a wide range of public and private sector bodies.


Education Law

Aileen’s background as an academic gives her a particular insight into disputes arising in the context of higher education. She has appeared in many higher education judicial review challenges for the Office of the Independent Adjudicator and higher education institutions, including in the Court of Appeal in St George’s, University of London v Rafique-Aldawery (2019) and R (Thilakawardhana) v OIA (2018). She has provided extensive advice in relation to internal matters including disciplinary, grievance and whistleblowing procedure. She intervened in the Court of Appeal for the Southall Black Sisters and Inspire in HM Inspector of Education, Children’s Services & Skills v IEB of Al-Hijraj School, a challenge to sex segregation in schools. Aileen regularly appears for claimants and schools in the High Court (see for example R v Medway Council (2019) which involved a successful challenge by a school to a local authority’s EHCP) EWHC 156 (Admin) as well as in tribunal cases. She is involved in extensive advisory work in the sphere of education including, recently, on the application of the Prevent duty and on wider questions of freedom of expression. She is editor of the Education Law Reports.

Public Law

Aileen has a varied public law practice ranging from challenges by commercial bodies against public authority decision-making, on the one hand, to cases involving police  and prison authorities on the other. She appeared for Tate in its successful defence of the Tate Modern viewing gallery (Fearn v Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery [2019] EWHC 246 (Ch)) and intervened for the EHRC in Ten Human Rights Organisations v the UK (2019). Aileen is regularly instructed by Arts Council England, Tate and the IOPC. She has extensive expertise in discrimination law and equality cases and in election law challenges. She is on the editorial committee of Public Law.

Employment Law

Aileen has a busy employment law practice at employment tribunal level and above. She is regularly instructed in high-value discrimination cases for both claimants and respondents, as well as in victimization and whistleblowing, TUPE, working time, holiday pay and other employment claims. In Mannix v CAST (2019) she secured findings that the CEO of one of the UK’s largest Multi-academy Trusts had been unfairly dismissed by reason of the interference of the Bishop of Plymouth. She secured costs in this and other ET cases. She has experience in the CAC (National Union of Journalists v Buzzfeed (2017) and of the High Court in employment and related litigation (eg Utilitywise Plc v Northern Gas and Power Ltd) as well as in the EAT and Court of Appeal in employment –related matters (R (Lidl) v CAC; Creditsights Ltd v Dhunna). She has appeared for the EHRC ina number of employment cases and intervened in the Supreme Court in Jivraj v Hashwani as well as for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and for Liberty in a variety of employment-related cases in the domestic courts and the ECHR.


Aileen was Junior Counsel to the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse  during  2016- 2016, and in that capacity had responsibility for the investigations into the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. She is junior Counsel on the EHRC’s Formal Investigation into the BBC’s pay practices and she undertakes extensive inquiries for private and public sector organisations.

Recent/Notable Cases

Supreme Court
R (MA & Ors) v SSWP [2016] UKSC 58, [2016] 1 WLR 4550 (public law: housing benefit)
R (Bibi) v SSHD (Liberty intervening) [2015] UKSC 68, [2015] 1 WLR 5055 (immigration)
R (Hunt) v North Somerset Council [2015] UKSC 51, [2015] 1 WLR 3575 (costs)
Jivraj v Hashwani [2011] UKSC 24, [2011] 1 WLR 1872 (employment status)
R (E) v Governing Body of JFS [2009] UKSC 15, [2010] 2 AC 728 (public law: education)

Privy Council
Hurnam v Attorney General [2017] UKPC 33 (Article 6, professional discipline)
Rodriguez v Minister of Housing of the Government & Anor [2009] UKPC 52, [2010] 3 LRC 653 (human rights, discrimination)

House of Lords
R (Carson) v SSWP [2005] UKHL 37, [2006] 1 AC 173 (human rights, discrimination)

Big Brother Watch & Ors v UK (Applications Nos. 58170/13, 62322/14 and 24960/15)[2018] ECHR 58170/13 (Articles 8 and 10)
Eweida & Ors v United Kingdom (2013) 34 BHRC 519, [2013] IRLR 231 (employment, human rights, discrimination)
Redfearn v United Kingdom (2012) 33 BHRC 713, [2013] IRLR 51 (employment, human rights, discrimination)

Court of Appeal
St George’s, University of London v Rafique-Aldawery [2019] ELR 119, [2018] EWCA Civ 2520 (higher education: procedure)
R (Thilakawardhana) v Office of the Independent Adjudicator [2018] EWCA Civ 13, [2018] ELR. 223 (higher education: fitness to practise, fairness)
HM Inspector of Education, Children’s Services & Skills v IEB of Al-Hijraj School [2017] EWCA Civ 1426 (education: discrimination)
R (Lidl Ltd) v Central Arbitration Cttee and GMB [2017] ICR 1145 (employment: union recognition)
Dhunna v CreditSights Ltd [2015] ICR 105 (employment law: extra-territoriality)
R (Roberts) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis & Ors [2014] 1 WLR 3299 (public law: police)
R (Hunt) v North Somerset Council [2014] LGR 1 (public law: education)
Burger v Office of the Independent Adjudicator [2013] EWCA Civ 1803 (public law: education) R (HRH Sultan of Pahang) v SSHD [2011] EWCA Civ 616, (2011) Times, 13 June (sovereign immunity)
R (N) v North Tyneside Borough Council [2010] EWCA Civ 135, [2010] All ER (D) 115 (Jun) (education)
Ladele v Islington London Borough Council [2010] ICR 532 (human rights, employment) R (Mohammed) v SSD [2007] EWCA Civ 1023, (2007) Times, 9 May (human rights, discrimination)
R (Johnson) v Havering LBC; YL v Birmingham CC [2007] EWCA Civ 26, [2008] QB 1(human rights, scope of public authority)
Murphy v Slough BC & Anor [2005] ICR 721 (employment)
R (Purja & Ors) v Ministry of Defence [2004] 1 WLR 289 (human rights, discrimination)

High Court
Williamson v Formby (sued on behalf of all members of the Labour Party except the Claimant)[2019] EWHC 2639 (QB) (political party:disciplinary proceedings, contractual obligations of fairness)
R v Medway Council [2019] EWHC 156 (Admin) (education: EHCP)
Fearn v Tate Gallery Board of Trustees [2019] EWHC 246 (Ch), [2019] Ch 369, [2019] 2 WLR 1335 (privacy)
Banwait v Bettany [2018] EWHC 3263 (QB) (election challenge)
HA v University of Wolverhampton [2018] ACD 35 Admin Ct, February 12 2018[2018] ACD 35 (higher education: fitness to practice)
Utilitywise Plc v Northern Gas and Power Ltd [2017] EWHC 2520 (QB) (employment: restrictive covenants)
R (Rafique-Aldawery) v St George’s, University of London; R (Sivasubramaniyam) v University of Leicester [2017] EWHC 188 (Admin), [2017] ELR 269 (public law: education)
R (Lidl Ltd) v Central Arbitration Cttee and GMB [2016] EWHC 2040 (Admin), [2016] IRLR 756 (employment: union recognition)
Parkinson v Lewis [2016] EWHC 725 (QB) (election challenge)
Thilakawardhana v Office of the Independent Adjudicator [2015] EWHC 3285 (Admin), [2015] All ER (D) 195 (Nov) (public law: education)
R (Ryder) v Lord Chancellor [2015] EWHC 1857 (Admin), [2015] All ER (D) 287 (Jun) (public law: prisons)
Mayfield Care Ltd and another v St Helen’s Council [2015] EWHC 1057 (Admin), [2015] All ER (D) 171 (Apr) (public law: commercial)
R (Gopikrishna) v Office of Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education [2015] All ER (D) 160 (Feb) (public law: education)
P v East Sussex County Council [2014] EWHC 4634 (Admin), [2015] ELR 178 (education) BNR v Governing Body Of Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School [2014] EWHC 1238 (Admin) (costs)
R (Mustafa) v Office of the Independent Adjudicator [2013] EWHC 1379 (Admin), [2013] All ER (D) 323 (May) (public law: education)
R (Members of Care North East Northumberland) v Northumberland CC [2013] EWHC 234 (Admin), [2013] LGR 265 (public law: commercial)
Burger v Office of the Independent Adjudicator [2013] EWHC 172 (Admin), [2013] All ER (D) 99 (Feb) (public law: education)
R (Redcar & Cleveland Independent Providers Association) v Redcar & Cleveland BC [2013] EWHC 4 (Admin) (public law: commercial)
R (Care North East Newcastle) v Newcastle CC [2012] EWHC 2655 (Admin) (public law: commercial)
R (Chapti) v Secretary of State for Home Department [2011] EWHC 3370 (Admin) [2012] 2 All ER 653
Hunt v North Somerset Council [2012] EWHC 1928 (Admin), [2012] All ER (D) 295 (Jul) (public law: education)
R (AMC) v Arts Council England [2012] All ER (D) 242 (Jun) (public law: commercial)
R (Hurley & Anor) v SSBIS [2012] EWHC 201 (Admin), [2012] All ER (D) 116 (Feb)

Donkor v Royal Bank of Scotland [2016] IRLR 268 (race discrimination)
Hyde & Anor v Planned Maintenance Engineering Ltd UKEAT/0408/12/GE, [2013] All ER (D) 29 (Oct) (service provision change, TUPE)
Brain v Remploy Ltd UKEAT/0465/10/0203, [2011] All ER (D) 143 (Mar) (time limits)
Miller v Bellway Homes Ltd UKEAT/0309/09/CEA (perversity)
LB Islington v Ladele & Liberty [2009] ICR 387 (discrimination)

National Union of Journalists v Buzzfeed Case Number: TUR1/1000(2017)

Upper Tribunal
C v Governing Body of I School (SEN)[2015] UKUT 217 (AAC) (challenge to exclusion)
A London Borough v B (SEN); R(A London Borough) v FtT (HESC); R (B) v Governing Body of the A Voluntary Aided Primary School and a London Borough [2013] UKUT 0347 (AAC) (obligation to admit)

In addition to advocacy Aileen does extensive advisory and training work, in particular on human rights, discrimination/equality and employment law. She was appointed to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Panel of Preferred Counsel in 2019 having also been on the Commission’s previous panels.
Aileen is Professor of Law and Social Justice at the University of Leeds having previously been Professor of Human Rights Law and Vice Dean of the Law School at King’s College London. She is Chair of the Human Rights Lawyers Association; Vice President of the Institute of Employment Rights; editor of the Education Law Reports, a member of the editorial committees of Public Law, European Human Rights Law Review and the International Journal of Discrimination and the Law; and a former Executive Committee Member of the Industrial Law Society and trustee of the British Institute of Human Rights. She was until 2016 the UK’s National Expert on the European Networks of Legal Experts in the Field of Gender Equality and of Experts in the Non-discrimination Field. She has published very widely on human rights, discrimination and employment law.


“She is well versed in discrimination law and extremely knowledgeable in the area”, “Aileen is very knowledgeable and provides clear and practical advice”, “She is very calm, thorough and logical on her feet with a sharp awareness of the judge’s thinking. A barrister with an excellent client manner, she’s always available and prompt to respond to any needs for urgent advice”, “An expert in discrimination law, who is very, very bright.” (Chambers & Partners 2019)

“A tenacious advocate with a reassuring manner”, “She is calm, dependable and sensible and is wonderful on women’s rights”, “She has many strengths and is plainly expert in her field.”, “Hugely authoritative and well versed in the law. A great advocate.” (Legal 500 2018)

“One of the best counsels on higher education institution matters … often a scramble to instruct her first. She knows the area inside out and is impressive on paper and on her feet. Very responsive, pragmatic and easy to work with, she sets the bar high”, “Technically excellent, always available and with a pragmatic approach.” “She shows a real understanding of discrimination law and is clear, impressive and persuasive.” (Chambers & Partners 2018)

“Provides insightful and penetrating analyses”, “Authoritative in discrimination law and a great advocate for women”, “A true expert in school disputes, who impresses clients effortlessly” (Legal 500 2017)

“A recognised expert in the fields of education and discrimination law, and an excellent advocate”, “very responsive, highly pragmatic, and ha[ving] a deep and outstanding knowledge of the law”, “Known for her excellent technical knowledge of employment law … highly praised for her client service”, “certainly knows her onions when it comes to discrimination and jurisdictional questions”; “Very technical, very client-friendly and highly responsive” (Chambers & Partners 2016)

“Provid[ing] insightful and pragmatic advice” and “Very user-friendly” (Legal 500 2015) “attentive, client friendly, extremely thorough and straight-talking” (Chambers & Partners 2015) “Easy to work with and always on top of her case” (Legal 500 2014)


Special Educational Needs and Disability Discrimination in Schools (LAG: 2017) with Sarah Hannett and Elizabeth Prochaska

Labour Law (Cambridge University Press, 2019) with Hugh Collins and Keith Ewing (2nd ed)

Discrimination, Equality and the Law (Hart: 2014)

Labour Law: Cases and Materials (with H Collins and KD Ewing), Hart: 2005 (2nd ed) and 2000 (1st ed)

Discrimination Law: Text, Cases and Materials (Hart: 2005 (2nd ed) and 2000 (1st ed))

Discrimination Law Handbook(ed.) (LAG, 2005 (2nd ed) and 2002 (1st ed))

Equality and Diversity (ed), (London: Institute of Employment Rights, 2003)

Women under the Law; the False Promise of Human Rights (Essex: Longman, 1999)

Just Wages For Women (Clarendon Press, 1997)

The Future of Labour Law (ed) (Mansell, 1996)

The Case For Taking the ‘Date’ out of Rape (London: Pandora, 1996)

Pay Equity – Just Wages for Women? (London, Institute of Employment Rights, 1994)

With K.D. Ewing, Law at Work (2nd ed, London, UNISON Education and Training, 1994)

Recent Articles/Chapters in Books

“Undue Spiritual Influence: A Historical Analysis” (2017) 28 King’s College Law Journal 279

“Reporting Public Protest and Events” in G Millar and A Scott, Newsgathering: Law, Regulation and the Public Interest (OUP, 2016)

“Britain Alone! The Implications And Consequences of UK Exit from the EU: Social Policies” in        P Birkinshaw and A Biondi, The Implications And Consequences of UK Exit from the EU (Wolters, Kluwer, 2016)

“Litigating the Public Sector Equality Duty: The Story So Far” (2015) 35 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 453

“Religion and (in)equality in the European Framework”, in L. Zucca and C Ungureanu, Law State and Religion and in the New Europe: Debates and Dilemmas (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

“Equality and Multiculturalism” [2011] Current Legal Problems 1

“Lessons from the Past? Northern Ireland, Terrorism now and then and the Human Rights Act” in T. Campbell, K.D. Ewing and A. Tomkins, Rescuing Human Rights (OUP, 2011)

James v Eastleigh” in Hunter R., McGlynn C. and Rackley,E., Feminist Judgments: From Theory to Practice (Oxford, Hart, 2010)

“Class wars? Religion and (In) equality in the Workplace” (2009) 38 Industrial Law Journal 1- 29

Chapters on Article 14 and domestic discrimination provisions in S. Bailey  and  N.  Taylor, Bailey, Harris & Jones: Civil Liberties Cases, Materials and Commentary (6th ed OUP, 2009)

“Prohibitions against discrimination and Integration of Welfare Functions into EU Law: Potential Pitfalls?” in U. Neergaard, R. Nielsen & L. Roseberry (eds.), Integrating Welfare Functions into EU Law: From Rome to Lisbon (DJOF Forlag, Copenhagen, 2009)

Contributor to R. Clayton and H. Tomlinson, The Law of Human Rights (2nd ed, OUP, 2009)

Chapter on Article 14 in M. Janis, R. Kay and A. Bradley, European Human Rights Law: Text and Materials (3rd ed, OUP, 2008)

“Harassment” (Chapter 4) in D. Schiek, L. Waddington and M. Bell (eds.) Cases, Materials and Text on National, Supranational and International Non-Discrimination Law (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2007)

“Reconfiguring Discrimination Law” [2007] Public Law 74-94

“Cracking the Comparator Problem, ‘Equal’ Treatment and the role of Comparisons” [2006]

European Human Rights Law Review 650 – 677

“Do Privacy Rights Disappear in the Workplace?” (2003) European Human Rights Law Review 120-140

“Principles of Equality and Protection from Discrimination in International Human Rights Law” (2003) European Human Rights Law Review 157-175

“Discrimination Law and the Human Rights Act 1998”  in  T.  Campbell,  K.D.  Ewing  and  A. Tomkins (eds), Sceptical Approaches to Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

“Women and the Human Rights Act” (2000) 51(3) Northern Ireland Law Quarterly

“Regulating Pay Discrimination” in H. Collins, P. Davies and R. Rideout (eds.), Legal

Regulation of the Employment Relation (Kluwer, 2000)


Aileen is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars both academic and practitioner. She regularly addresses European audiences and has given lectures and seminars in Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Belgium, Turkey, Croatia, Austria, Germany and elsewhere as well as, domestically, to the Industrial Law Society, the Discrimination Law  Association, the  Employment  Lawyers’ Association and the Institute of Employment Rights on a wide variety  of  subjects  including equal pay, discrimination/ equality, privacy, data protection and human rights. She has also delivered extensive equality training to regulatory bodies, commercial organisations and judges.

Aileen accepts instructions under Standard Contractual Terms, details of which can be found on our website under Code of Conduct.



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