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SRA to consult on trainees’ minimum salary

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to consult on whether it should continue to set the annual minimum rate of pay for trainee solicitors.

The SRA Board took the decision to launch the consultation at its meeting on 11 January as the issue had not been reviewed since 2007, when the SRA took over responsibility for prescribing the compulsory minimum rate from the Law Society.

The minimum wage policy, which dates back to 1982, was designed to protect trainees from being exploited and to encourage high calibre graduates into the profession before the introduction of a national minimum wage.

SRA Executive Director Samantha Barrass, said: "Our consultation paper explains that there is no clear evidence that setting a minimum salary for trainees fulfils any of the regulatory objectives within the Legal Services Act.

"We do not regulate prices, including rate of pay, in any other area of our work. We have compared the practice with other professional regulators and found very few examples where this occurs. It would appear that setting a minimum salary does not address any identified risk to the public interest or the rule of law, nor is it clear that it improves access to the profession.

"We want to make sure that we have fully considered the potential impact of deregulation. For this reason the Board has decided to launch a full consultation and hold focus groups with stakeholders over the next few months before considering whether any changes should be made to the existing arrangements."

The current minimum salary levels are £18,590 in Central London and £16,650 outside—the rates have been frozen in the past two years to reflect the current economic downturn.

The SRA Board will be invited to consider responses to the consultation, together with a full impact assessment, before making a decision on whether or not to remove the minimum salary requirement at its meeting on 16 May this year.

The consultation, which can be viewed and downloaded here opens on 13 January and closes on 10 April 2012.  

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