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A real-talk interview with Canadian labour lawyer, Stephen Gleave, on the state of Canada's workforce

A black and white image of a man with his arms folded

If you’d never met Stephen Gleave, you’d never know he was a labour lawyer. Why? Because he prefers to talk to his friends about his farm rather than any professional pursuits.


But professionally, Stephen Gleave has a lot to be proud of. His law career in Ancaster, Ontario spans over three decades, including over 50 trials, 300 labor and commercial arbitrations, and 50 labor injunctions. 


A member of both the Law Society of Ontario and the Canadian Bar Association, Stephen Gleave serves as a partner at DLA Piper LLP. Before his current role, he dedicated the majority of his career to the Toronto-based firm, Hicks Morley.


The current state of the labor market in Canada has long been a hot topic for news outlets and other popular media, with many wondering where their rights stop, start or end in terms of employment. 


Residing with his family on his farm in the historic town of Ancaster, Gleave cultivates Highland cattle and tends to his orchard. His interests span agriculture, running, and fly fishing. However, he remains steadfast in his passion for employment law. 


Can you discuss any recent changes in Canadian labor law and how they might impact businesses and employees?

Something significant to mention in terms of recent developments is the expansion of paid leave entitlements employees receive. I think this will have a significant impact on Canadian labour law. It's a foreign concept for the average worker so I've had to advise clients on how these changes will impact them in terms of policies and procedures, and be sure to maintain compliance while minimizing disruption. 


If a company is facing labor-related challenges, how do you approach providing strategic advice to help them navigate those issues?

When it comes to providing any strategic advice, I typically start by doing a full analysis of my client's situation. For example, I advised a company on restructuring its workforce, considering both legal requirements and the company's long term goals. For any kind of law practice, it starts with listening, and I want to be sure we’re on the same page as far as our goals and our tactics. 


What strategies did you employ to reach resolutions in more complex labour disputes?

I’ve been able to successfully resolve some complex, and contentious, labour disputes by promoting clear and open communication between the parties and by facilitating the proper negotiations. I emphasized finding common ground and proposing creative solutions that met the interests of both sides.


If anyone is interested in becoming a labour lawyer, what would you recommend to them?

Prepare to do a lot of schooling and make sure it’s what you really want to do. I’d never deter anyone from practicing law, but it is a challenging sector to get started in and you have to be very dedicated to the craft. I’ve been at this for 30 years and I am still having to learn and grow as a professional. Keeping yourself up to date with new mandates and bills is essential, so make sure you’re reading into it and keeping up with the state of your profession. 

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