From 2014 the trainee minimum wage will no longer apply. Living on the statutory minimum will be tough.
Living on the minimum wage anywhere is tough, especially in the capital.
Before I moved to London I found some ads for cheap accommodation at about £150 per month – a ludicrously low rent for a notoriously expensive city.
The catch was I’d have to share a single room with two others. It turned out the people living in the room were from Poland, holding down low-paid jobs in a coffee chain. Their plan was to save money for six months and move back home.
Similarly in a house share years later, the only person prepared to take our tiny shoebox room was a girl from Spain who was working zero contract hours at a restaurant, again on the minimum wage.
Her plan was to live hand to mouth for a bit in order to improve her English, then get something better.
I mention this in light of comments from the outgoing chief executive of Domino’s Pizza, Lance Batchelor. Since the immigration laws were tightened up it is harder to hire staff, especially in London and the south-east, he says.
According to Batchelor there are ‘a huge number of jobs at the bottom end of the service industry, and not enough people in the UK who want to work for them’.
The point is there has to be an obvious motivation for taking a very low-paid job in London, when the cost of living is so high.
That also raises the question of what will happen to the legal jobs market next year when the removal of the minimum salary for trainee solicitors comes into force in favour of the national minimum wage.
From 2014 the current solicitors’ minimum wage of £18,590 per year for training contracts based in central London and £16,650 for those outside of the capital will no longer apply. The minimum wage equivalent for a 35-hour week would be £11,484.
If firms do adopt the national minimum, aspiring solicitors will have to decide if that’s a temporary hardship they’re prepared to accept in the hope that it will lead to something better, while others will turn to their parents to cushion the blow.
However, it’s certain that some will do the maths and decide spending £11,000 on a legal practice course with the prospect of being paid £6.31 an hour (if they’re lucky enough to get a contract) is simply not worth their while.
Kathleen Hall is a Gazette reporter