Removal of minimum trainee salary coincides with increase in number of training contracts offered
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) says that, since the removal of the minimum trainee salary, the number of trainees has increased – and they are “more positive” about their salaries, despite the fact that average trainee salaries have decreased.
It was decided by the SRA in 2014 not to set a minimum salary for trainees, with law firms being required to pay at least the national minimum wage, as well as being guided by the market.
The SRA has now analysed data involving 33,000 trainee solicitors between 2011 and 2016 to assess the impact of the changes – and removal of the minimum salary has coincided with continued growth in the number of training contracts offered. However, it is unclear from the data whether the removal of the minimum salary contributed to this growth – or whether it reflects an increased demand for trainees.
The research also shows that trainee pay has fallen – on average, by £560 per year – since the removal of the minimum salary. The SRA says the main cause of this has been a drop in the salary of the lowest earning trainees.
However, the majority of trainees (75%) and law firms (82%) felt that the change had not impacted either positively or negatively, with trainees now “significantly more positive about salary levels”.
The researchers found that, in 2012, only half of trainees surveyed said salaries would mean they would be able to continue training – this figure increased to 83% in 2016. Furthermore, a total of 55% of trainees felt their salary was too low in 2012, with the number falling to 46% in 2016.
The research also assessed how the change had affected certain groups –
the average pay gap between different ethnic groups has fallen significantly, data reveals, thought to be mainly as a result of reductions in the salaries of trainees who describe themselves as white.
Black and Asian trainees are still generally paid less, the researchers found, as they are more likely to work in firms paying lower wages – including sole practices and firms specialising in criminal, litigation or real estate work.
The average gender pay gap has increased slightly, however, even taking into account other factors such as the type of firm worked in. Female trainees are still on average earning slightly less than male trainees, although the data did not provide evidence as to why this might be.
SRA Chief Executive Paul Philip said:
“Given the value of legal services to the UK and significant unmet legal need, it is encouraging that the number of trainees continues to grow and that they are more positive about their futures.
“Although the pay gap between different ethnic groups has reduced since the removal of the minimum salary, it is disappointing that the data again highlights that black and Asian solicitors are more likely to work in firms that pay less.
“We will continue to work with others to increase diversity in all types of firms and at all stages in a solicitor’s career.”
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