From 1st August 2014, firms will no longer be obliged to pay trainee solicitors a minimum salary above the national minimum wage, it has been announced by the SRA Board.
The change will mean that trainees could be paid as little as the national minimum wage, which is currently £6.08 an hour. This would work out at £11,697.92 per year working a 37 hour week.
The current minimum salary for trainees is £16,650 per year, or £18,590 for those working in central London.
The Board agreed that setting a minimum salary level for trainees above the national minimum wage was not in the public interest. After considering the potential diversity issues highlighted by the consultation and Equality Impact Assessment, it was concluded that setting a minimum salary was not the best way to address these.
Samantha Barass, SRA Executive Director commented:
“We wish to thank everyone who responded to the consultation, and those who took part in the stakeholder meetings, focus groups, and the online survey for their views and information that were taken into account in reaching this decision.
“This decision was based on an objective consideration of very full and detailed evidence gathered through a variety of sources.”
The Board noted that it was the only regulator to set a minimum salary above national minimum wage.
The change has been deferred until 2014 to minimise the impact on those already on training contracts, and to allow those who will be affected to make informed decisions on the situation.
The Law Society has criticised the decision by the SRA, arguing that it plays a crucial role in promoting equality of opportunity.
A spokesman for the Law Society said:
“’The Law Society was concerned that the result of this decision will be that trainees who will be offered the reduced minimum salary, who are likely already to have substantial debts, will find themselves in significant financial difficulty and forced to take on other work which will distract them from giving full attention to the training contract.
‘Alternatively, those trainees who have private means will receive an undue advantage over potentially more meritorious candidates. Neither result will be good for the diversity of the profession. These views were supported by the SRA’s own Equalities Impact Assessment and we are surprised and disappointed that the SRA did not place greater weight on its findings.
‘We will be monitoring the effects of the decision closely.’
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