Overview

Mayer Brown's Employee Benefits practice has lawyers in business centers across the United States, Europe and Asia offering sophisticated solutions to the most complex issues related to employee benefits law. Our clients are among the largest businesses in the world, with members of the Fortune 500, FTSE 100, DAX and Hang Seng frequently seeking our advice on plan design, implementation and compliance, and scheme and plan design and strategies across the myriad regulatory environments in which they may find themselves, including:

Practice at a Glance

  • More than 100 lawyers focus on employee benefits issues across the United States, Europe and Asia.
  • Our clients are members of the Fortune 500, FTSE 100, DAX and Hang Seng.
  • Our presence in the largest national economies in Europe bolsters the reach of our European benefits lawyers.
  • We have the largest employee benefits capability of any firm operating in Asia.
  • We have a broad and diversified US practice that is capable of servicing all of the employee benefit needs of our clients and that is strengthened by our global employee benefits presence.
Highlights
Employment & Benefits Tools and Resources

Experience

Mayer Brown’s Employee Benefits practice has extensive experience representing clients in the United States, Europe and Asia in all aspects of employee benefits law. We have included a representative sampling of our work worldwide below. 

Americas

United States

In the United States, our employee benefits and ERISA practice assists clients of all sizes and in a broad cross-section of industries, including representation of many Fortune 500 companies, as well as tax-exempt employers. We also serve as special counsel in a variety of transactions. Our US lawyers have substantial experience representing clients before the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and have worked with representatives of these agencies and members of Congress on compensation and benefits matters. Our lawyers have significant experience working with both domestic and multi-national companies on all types of employee benefits arrangements. We are involved and have significant experience in all aspects of compliance, transactional, and controversy work, including tax controversy work and ERISA litigation, involving employee benefit arrangements and executive compensation arrangements. We also have an extensive ERISA Fiduciary practice, and advise in-house plan fiduciaries, as well as investment managers, banks and other institutional fiduciaries. Our work is often multi-disciplinary and we work closely with lawyers in the firm’s other practice areas, such as tax, labor, litigation, finance, corporate and securities.

We are frequently consulted on the design and implementation of new plans as well as the redesign of existing benefit arrangements. We are, of course, continuously involved in advising our clients about changes in law relating to employee benefit arrangements and in amending our clients’ plans to reflect those changes in law. We also counsel and advise our clients on company policy issues relating to benefit plans and assist them in ensuring that their benefit arrangements reflect not only the legal requirements but also the proper plan design for their unique situation. We are proactive in alerting our clients to changes in the legal framework that might necessitate a plan revision or a change in administration or plan design.

We assist with ongoing plan administration, employee communications and tax issues and, for a number of years, have been heavily involved in addressing operational violations that must be corrected via the IRS Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (whether by self-correction or formal filing.) This work entails working with our clients to assess the significance of the violation and developing tailor-made solutions for often complicated problems. For example, we have devised correction methodologies for multiple overlapping violations for which the Code and regulations prescribe no clear cut correction mechanisms; we have assisted in the preparation of employee communication materials; and we have advised on the tax consequences of both the errors and the corrections (e.g., prior impermissible distributions, repayments of overpayments and excess contributions to IRAs).

We also advise clients on all types of health and welfare plan issues, including insured and self-insured health arrangements, special "top hat" welfare plans for executives only, cafeteria plans, disability, life insurance, tuition reimbursement, severance and various types of post-employment or retiree arrangements, as well as arrangements for domestic partners (including same sex domestic partners — an increasingly common practice—as well as keeping abreast of developments relating to same-sex marriage and its affect on employee benefit arrangements.

COBRA and HIPAA remain constant sources of issues for our clients, and we have advised on each of these statutes since their enactment. We have also advised our clients on compliance with the HIPAA privacy and security regulations, in preparing documentation necessary for compliance (e.g., business associate agreements, plan amendments, certifications, policies and procedures, and advisory memos on the regulations) and in training clients’ in-house personnel (benefits, HR and IT) on compliance. 

Europe

Our European pensions group is a unique pool of pension specialists throughout the EU-wide pension market. Understanding the needs of our clients in a changing demographic environment, we are focused on the ever increasing importance of occupational pensions issues for employers, employees and the pensions industry. Our lawyers in the major European business centers – the United Kingdom, France and Germany – enhance our reach throughout Europe. Our lawyers meet our clients’ needs for modern, flexible pension schemes with calculable costs and secure benefits and safely guide our clients through the extremely diverse and varied pensions systems in Europe. Our pensions lawyers are known for their innovative and open minded approach when it comes to finding solutions – on a national level as well as cross-border.

France

The Employment group of the Paris office advises the managerial and human resources teams of both French and non-French clients, in a wide variety of industries, on all employment related matters.

We have extensive experience in compensation and incentives schemes for all levels of employees or managers.

We assist our clients in the negotiation, drafting and implementation of profit sharing plans whether compulsory or supplemental, occupational retirement schemes and compensation plans. We provide added value in the implementation of new compensation schemes from drafting the proposals made to the employees and the amendments brought to the employment contracts to the information and consultation of the employees representative bodies. 

Germany

Our pension lawyers are amongst the best known in a fast emerging market that has long been known for its sleeping potential. We advise our clients on all questions related to occupational pension schemes – from the structuring of the scheme, its implementation and its ongoing administration. We have in-depth knowledge of pensions matters in M&A transactions and have advised a large number of corporations on scheme restructurings, especially on the outsourcing of liabilities under direct commitment schemes. Our lawyers regularly appear before employment and ordinary courts and have a reputation to be among the best pension litigators in the country. We are members of the German professional organization for occupational pensions (Arbeitsgemeinschaft fuer betriebliche Altersversorgung) and the International Pensions and Employee Benefits Association (IPEBLA). To provide full-service advise to our clients, the pensions lawyers in our Employment & Benefits group liaise with colleagues from other groups in our product group Pensions Asset Management. The activities of our pensions specialists are rounded off by regular publications and presentations in Germany’s biggest newspapers and journals and at Germany’s leading pensions conferences. 

United Kingdom

Our highly rated Employee Share Incentives Group aims to devise and put in place the most tax-efficient equity incentive arrangements that meets clients’ commercial requirements, and we pride ourselves on our user-friendly approach to what can be a confusing and technical area. This is reflected in clients’ comments in Chambers UK:

  • "Impressive turnaround time even on issues that were technically challenging"
  • "willingness to pick up the phone and clarify any issue we want"
  • "ability to explain things in eloquent and concise layman’s language”

One of the key features of our service is that our team of lawyers is fully integrated with the tax and corporate groups and it draws on a depth of corporate, tax, financial services and commercial experience within its own group. Our lawyers will take into account tax, social security, company law, trust law, employment law, corporate governance rules and investor guidelines, stock exchange rules, securities regulation, tax authority practice and cross border issues to provide clients with comprehensive solutions, whatever their circumstances.

Our clients comprise private and listed companies, UK based and international. 

Share Plans

The Group advises on all areas of share plan implementation and operation, including tax advantaged share plans (Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) options, approved Company Share Option Plans (CSOPs), approved SAYE Share Option Schemes and approved Share Incentive Plans (SIPs)), and other (“unapproved”) arrangements such as option schemes, phantom or shadow option schemes and share appreciation rights, Long Term Incentive Plans (LTIPs) and restricted share schemes. 

International Plans

With our network of international offices, together with good links with other firms in those countries in which we do not have our own offices, we are ideally placed to advise on the global implementation of share plans. An important part of our service involves reviewing overseas advice for consistency and working with the local lawyers to deliver a coherent and commercial report to clients.

Additionally, we have a depth of experience in the implementation of share plans for overseas companies in the UK – where possible in a tax-efficient manner, such as the implementation of US share purchase plans through UK approved SAYE option plans or share incentive plans. 

Employee Benefit Trusts

We advise on all aspects of the use of employee benefit trusts in connection with the operation of share plans, with good experience of both onshore and offshore trusts. 

Private Equity

We advise on tax-efficient tailored equity participation for management in start-ups, management buy-outs and private equity situations, and on carried interest arrangements in fund structures. In particular we have excellent experience at designing and implementing “growth share” arrangements where a special class of share is designed for employees, and have combined these arrangements with EMI options to maximize tax efficiency for both employee and employer. 

Asia

Mayer Brown's Employment & Benefits practice is one of the leading practices in Asia. With lawyers in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam the scope of our practice and experience far exceeds any other law firm in Asia. We are repeatedly recognized as the best law firm in Asia with numerous awards over the years from respectable publications. Mayer Brown’s Employment & Benefits group acts for a broad spectrum of clients ranging from international and domestic corporations to to government and government-funded organizations. As one of the largest and oldest firms operating in Asia, we offer our clients substantial capabilities in one of the fastest growing markets in the world.

Combining the skills of experienced practitioners in all types of employee benefits, we offer a truly integrated contentious and non-contentious capability tailored to the needs of our clients.

Hong Kong

Our services include:

  • All aspects of occupational retirement schemes in Hong Kong
  • All aspects of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Ordinance
  • Employee share option schemes
  • Legal obligations of Hong Kong employers and employees

We strive to be on top of the latest HR related news and regulations so that we can update our clients on changes in law and practice. We ensure our clients are kept abreast of the latest legal developments through our Client Alert service. Over 1,700 subscribers have registered to receive our Client Alerts in the Employment & Benefits area. The Group distributes in excess of 30 free Client Alerts each year to add value to existing relationships and educate clients of changes in the law and practice. Our employment articles are frequently requested by external publications for republication.

Our lawyers are regular contributors to various legal journals and employment law publications. We have published a series of employment law and discrimination law reports for Hong Kong and the region.