Furloughed trainee: ‘Should I get my pay rise?’

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I am really confused

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one furloughed trainee, who was meant to start her second year this summer, has been told she won’t receive a pay increase as agreed in her training contract. What should she do?

“I am a trainee solicitor who is currently on indefinite furlough at the 80% rate. I was hoping to ask a question in respect of a trainee salary issue I am having with my firm for which I cannot find an answer on the SRA or Law Society sites.

I along with a number of other trainees began our training contracts in the summer of 2019 and we have been furloughed since the beginning of the CJRS [Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme].

Our offer letters state that we will earn a salary of £22,000 per year, increasing to £23,000 upon commencement of the second year of the training contract. The contract itself states the firm will pay ‘£22,000 in the first year and £23,000 in the second year’.

The second year would have started in July 2020 and I was expecting an increase in my salary, but I was informed by the firm they will not be processing the increase. I am really confused as to whether I am entitled to the agreed increase given that I am on furlough.”

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Firstly, I am so sorry that your career has been impacted by corona and I hope you are back to work soon.

My understanding of furlough (having been on it myself) was that I was being paid 80% of my earnings for the period that I worked (as I had not been there a full year). Therefore, despite any increase in pay that you should’ve got, if that hasn’t been paid by your firm already (pre-furlough) it won’t be taken into account when calculating your 80%.
In my circumstances, my wage changed monthly so my furlough was just 80% of my average. As it’s the government paying this, they will calculate yours in the same way which is 80% of your first year salary. Any increase that your contract stipulates your entitled to seems that it should have to be paid by the firm as a “top up”.

**this is just my understanding and I could be wrong so don’t take what I say too literally, I’m just trying to offer my insight**



I suspect as you have not acquired the number of necessary days of work experience required to qualify within the normal two year timeframe of a period of recognised training (based on full-time hours), the firm has the right to not raise your pay accordingly and that it will not apply until you have to accumulated a year’s worth of that experience.



This would only be the case if the contract allowed them to take these factors into account when determining whether to give a pay rise. The description above does not indicate this is the case, and, based solely upon the description above, there seems to be a clear-cut obligation to increase pay.



A typically TC contract has this covered, particularly for instances when people have periods of long absence or for people who choose to go part-time.



There are two issues here: (1) should the firm honour the pay rise and (2) would that lead to a corresponding increase in pay while on furlough.

On (1), from the description above it seems unambiguous that, under the contract, the firm are obliged to give a pay rise after the first year. There may, of course, be another provision allowing the firm flexibility on this in certain circumstances but these details aren’t described in the description given in this article – I would review the remainder of the contract and seek to understand from the firm on what contractual basis they are seeking to renege on the obligation to increase your salary.

On (2), furlough pay is calculated based on salary during the previous pay period. Therefore, even if you get a pay rise this will not affect your furlough payments.


Give and take

Also, doesn’t it seem a little unfair, on your end, to have been on paid leave since March, but to still expect a payrise (albeit modest) ?





Graham Greene

Not when the government (and by extension, all of us tax payers) has been picking up 80% of the tab! It is little actions like these that should be remembered post-Covid. Increasing trainee salaries by a grand will have no impact on the partners.



No. By being on paid leave, the trainee is missing out on valuable experience and potentially prolonging the training process. The firm made a commitment to train them over two years and to make a (modest) pay rise after the first year and they should honour those points.



Don’t poke the bear



£23k. Jeeeeez


Deferred and annoyed future trainee

I’m so sick of hearing about and experiencing firms letting juniors take most of the fall with all of this corona crap. Do they not understand that putting juniors in vulnerable positions financially and in terms of their careers is going to set juniors back and suppress their commitment and motivation to the career…? Feels like that there’s very little concern for the future of the legal industry, and like partners and firms are more concerned with preserving their lux salaries… ?

Don’t commit to hiring people years in advance and make contractual commitments re salaries and start dates if you’re incapable of honouring them or at the v least, explaining with clear rationale why it isn’t possible to honour them ??

Behaviour of the legal industry re juniors = questionable af atm.



If they are on £22-23k they more than likely were not recruited far in advance. They are going to be a firm who recruited those who self funded the LPC.

Unfortunately until the SQE kicks in, firms have to commit to 2 years – that the whole issue with the current training contract system.

However, with the SQE, firms will be able to do a lot worse and just make trainees redundant (and with no redundancy pay due to lack of service). At least with the current system it protects trainees by generally keeping them in employment for 2 years/until they qualify.



The biggest recession in history is probably a good enough explanation as to why a firm can’t keep to their commitments.

At least you are only deferred. Many other graduates in other sectors have lost their jobs completely and have to start the application process from scratch.

Those securing TCs are currently protected much more than any other graduate going into their first job. You might think firms’ behaviour might be questionable now, but wait until firms no longer have to commit to two years and expect it to get a lot worse.



Look at all the business school data on what a firm needs to do in a downturn. Above all else preserve equity partner income. Nothing else comes close in terms of priority. The firm model is far more sensitive to income change than other models and that puts the entire future of an operation at risk if not managed. So when you moan about how it “feels like that there’s very little concern for the future of the legal industry, and like partners and firms are more concerned with preserving their lux salaries” they are doing exactly the best thing they can for the future of the business. Sucks to be junior at these times, those that enter the job market in a recession will earn about 15% over their working lifetimes compared to those not entering the market in a recession.



15% less, or 15% of?



15% less. 15% of would be brutal.


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