Your employment rights relating to salary, work hours, holiday leave and your contract are summarised here.
Hours of work
Your Indentures of Apprenticeship Deed require you to undertake your training on a full time basis. As a guide to what constitutes full time the Law Society recommendation is that you should work 36 hours per week. Working on a part-time basis is possible, although permission should be sought from the Law Society as working part-time will affect your Indenture Expiry Date and eligibility to attend the PPC II.
The Organisation of the Working Time Act, 1997 sets out the basic entitlements. In the case of trainees who are expected to work 36 hours per week, the annual leave entitlement is 1.66 days per calendar month worked or 20 days. If you commence your employment with your training solicitor after the leave year has commenced, you receive your holiday entitlement on a pro rata basis. For example, if the leave year for your firm commenced on 1 January and you commenced work on 1 April, you can expect to receive pro rata for the remainder of the year (15 days holiday entitlement).
With regards to holiday entitlement while on the PPC II, this is a matter to be agreed between you and your training solicitor.
Payment of course fees
Your training solicitor is under no obligation to pay your course fees. However, the payment of fees can constitute a deductible expense for tax purposes and any training solicitor wishing to know more about this should contact their local tax office. The payment of course fees can lead to a reduction in the salary levels payable to the trainee under the Act.
The “living wage”
The Education Committee of the Law Society of Ireland, whilst recognising that it exceeds the minimum statutory wage under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 (“NMWA 2000”, see below), recommends that a training solicitor gives consideration to paying his or her trainee solicitor the higher non-statutory “living wage” published from time to time by the Vincentian Partnership, as found and defined on its website (www.livingwage.ie). The current “living wage” hourly rate is €12.30 per hour and therefore, based on the recommended 36 hour work week, represents a weekly salary of €442.80.
Statutory minimum wage
A training solicitor is obliged to pay his/her trainee solicitor a minimum salary under the terms of the NMWA 2000. From 1 January 2019, the statutory national minimum wage for an experienced adult employee is €9.80 per hour (the “Statutory Wage”). An experienced adult employee, for the purposes of the NMWA 2000 is an employee who has had employment of any kind in any two years over the age of 18. See further details below.
Your training solicitor may also ask you to enter into a contract of employment. You are not prohibited from entering into such a contract. However, should a term of the employment contract conflict with any term of the Indentures of Apprenticeship Deed, the Indentures of Apprenticeship Deed takes precedence. You are advised to seek independent legal advice before entering into a contract of employment. For further information, see the section below.
Other employment obligations and rights
The Indentures of Apprenticeship Deed sets out the contractual responsibilities between you and your training solicitor, and the Law Society, in relation to the training relationship. It does not stand in the place of an employment contract, nor does it attempt to deal with your position as an employee. As an employee, you will have other entitlements and obligations arising from a range of employment legislation. It is not the function of the Law Society to advise in respect of general employment rights or advise you about your employment rights and obligations. You are advised to seek independent legal advice should you have a question or query arising from your status as an employee.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has a very useful website which provides information on issues such as Holidays and Public Holidays, Minimum Wage, Sick Leave and Unfair Dismissal. Visit www.welfare.ie