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Minimum Wage and the Legal Profession


Minimum Wage and the Legal Profession

Over the last few months we have posted fairly junior job vacancies for a couple of our member law firms (ie firms who have signed up to TenPercentUnlimited - google for further info). One was for a receptionist at a salary of £13,000 and the other a paralegal for £14,000. We received a couple of responses, one of which is below (and quite fair I thought!):
"I [have] reported you for offering a low salary of £13000 which is under [the] minimum wage. A person who needs to pay rent, transport, food and try to save, will never be able to live a decent human life with that salary. Shame on you for offering slavery! You are disgusting."
I sympathise entirely with this thinking (who on earth can live on £13,000 in London?) and had a look into the regulations in a bit more detail. We often get confused by the hourly rate translating into annual salary levels and as a result thought it might assist to publish our understanding of the figures. Please let us know if we are wrong.
As we understand it the hourly rates are as follows (as at 9th May 2017):
25 years+ = £7.50 per hour
21-24 years = £7.05 per hour
18-20 years = £5.60 per hour
This means that in terms of salary (assuming a 8 hours x 5 day x 52 week year) the minimum wage levels are:
25 years+ = £15,600
21-24 years = £14,664
18-20 years = £11,648
As such the advert for a receptionist at £13,000 was clearly below the level for anyone over the age of 20 years, and in fact by advertising at that level I presume the vacancy demonstrated discrimination on the grounds of age (as the firm would only be able to employ and pay staff under 20 years old at a rate of £13,000 per annum).
From this point onwards we, as a recruitment agency, will be more vigilant for vacancies like this one, but it is quite clear that the thinking amongst some law firms needs to change. £13,000 for a full time receptionist in London (or indeed anywhere else) is way too low for anyone to survive unless they are getting considerable support from state benefits on top.
I had noticed some time ago that there was a charity called The Living Wage Foundation encouraging companies to pay a Living Wage and that this level was higher then the government's definition. For example the charity considers the rate should be £8.45 outside of London. Being that we have a campaign to look at excessive charity pay (see our website and click the charity links) I thought I would have a look at the structure of the Living Wage Foundation. As a charity that campaigns for fair pay for all I would have imagined that the level of remuneration across the charity would be similarly fair and reasonable. Other charities, including Medicins San Frontieres, have policies such as not paying any member of staff more than 3 x the lowest person paid.
Other charities don't pay any staff over £60k even when they have considerable budgets and staffing levels to manage.
However according to the Charity Commission website, the charity running the The Living Wage Foundation, Citizens UK, paid their chief executive between £70 and 80k in 2016 with pension contributions to add to this of £7,473. Assuming a £70k salary, 52 week year and a 40 hour week, this equates to £37.24 per hour including the pension contributions. Is this fair pay, particularly from a charity promoting fair pay?

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.

Comments

Jonathan Fagan said…
Message from one of our candidates:

Dear Jonathan,
I think that your calculation for the minimum wage is wrong. You should include the holidays (28 days including bank holidays). So (52*5-28)= working days that you can multiply by the hours for day.

Best regards

FF

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