Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Unpaid Internships, Trial Periods and the Modern Slavery Unit - a recent experience

We have been involved in two cases recently where we queried status and issues with the Modern Slavery Unit, which I understand is a charity operating a helpline on behalf of the National Crime Agency.

1. The first situation was where we had concerns about a disabled solicitor being exploited by a solicitors firm. Payment made to this lawyer for his services was less than £5k for 2 years.

2. We had a request from a law firm to advertise unpaid trial periods to staff for 4 weeks before a paid permanent job was offered.

I rang the Modern Slavery Unit to get advice on these two situations. What powers did they have and whether these two issues came within their remit?

The advisor informed me that the unit was able to only investigate in scenario 1 if the disabled solicitor in question referred themselves to the unit. At that point they would be able to investigate and assist if necessary.

So far as the second scenario is concerned employers are perfectly able to offer unpaid trial periods to employees and it is up to the employees to decide not to accept the jobs. However if there are obvious signs of repetition of unpaid trial periods over time then the Modern Slavery Unit can investigate.

I include this information by way of observation only and in case it assists anyone else. The Unit number is 08000 121 700. We were surprised to find out that victims of trafficking or exploitation have to refer themselves to the unit in order to get investigated (although the adviser did say that if we spotted any suspicious activity at a hand car wash we should give them a ring). It seems a very unusual way of working!
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and a non-practising Solicitor. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment provides online Legal Recruitment for Solicitors, Legal Executives, Fee Earners, Support Staff, Managers and Paralegals. Visit our Website to search our Vacancy Database.

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