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How the market has changed for candidates in the legal sector

by Rayhaneh Tehrani | 31 January 2018

2018 is already shaping up to be a year of change. From the shaking up of Theresa May’s cabinet, our Brexit deal, and more specifically for the legal market the new GDPR regulations – all of which will bring a number of new challenges.

Looking back over the last few years at my time as a Recruitment Consultant working solely in the legal public sector market I have witnessed a number of changes in market trends, these include agency worker regulations and client demands. It is therefore safe to say that the legal market is a turbulent landscape and one that can be very difficult to navigate as a candidate, client and consultant! 

This blog will focus on the changes I have helped my candidates face over the past few years, and detail the impact these have had on the legal sector as a whole.

Umbrella expenses policy
On 06 April 2016, the government introduced changes to the umbrella expenses policy, which meant that candidates could no longer claim for travel and substance expenses. This forced many candidates to switch payment method and create their own limited companies in order to run their own finances so that they could continue to claim for their expenses.
As a locum this has a major impact on their income. As a contractor, candidates do not have the same level of security or benefits (such as sick pay, holiday pay, pension etc.). Therefore utilising the expense policy was a major benefit for those who choose to locum. 

For more information please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/employment-intermediaries-travel-expense-guidance/travel-and-subsistence-expenses-for-workers-engaged-through-employment-intermediaries-from-6-april-2016.

2017’s biggest change was the IR35 regulations brought in by HMRC. This impacted all candidates working in the public sector who used their own limited companies to get paid. All roles are now under scrutiny by HMRC, meaning that almost all workers are deemed employees of the organisations they work for. A candidates role is now determined by the client and not the contractor and therefore they are under a lot of scrutiny. If a contractor’s role is deemed to be inside IR35 they will be taxed at source similar to employees. This has had a huge impact on contractors who are working away from home and can no longer claim back their travel and accommodation expenses. It has meant staying away is no longer a viable option for most, which has impacted negatively on our clients who are based in rural areas for example.  

For further information please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-employment-status-for-tax where you will find a full breakdown of the IR35 regulations.

The need for Childcare Solicitors
Looking back on the past two years it is easy to see how new regulations have had a negative effect on locum staff. However, we have also seen a number of positive changes come from these regulations including how our clients are now operating in a candidate led market. This means that we have a lot of highly specialist, vacancies but not enough experienced candidates to fill the posts. 
Given the above changes we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the need for Contract Locums working within the public sector. Advising our clients on the new regulations and the down –turn in the market has led to increased rates. Ultimately, the increase in rates means that candidates are moving roles to secure a higher salary, and that a lot more counter offers are being made to ensure candidates stay with organisations. This has primarily been in the Contacts and Childcare arena as our clients struggle to find senior staff who are capable of taking on a highly skilled role.   

2018 and beyond

Looking forward to May 2018 one of the biggest changes that our market will see is the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) GDPR regulations. Not only from the legal perspective, whereby our clients are giving us instructions to source GDPR locums but also from a business point of view.  As a recruitment business we deal with personal and confidential information on a daily basis.
From our candidates point of view this is another niche area they can tap into in order to meet the peak in market trends. I have spoken with a number of legal professionals who have taken courses and are getting up to speed on the regulations in order to make themselves more marketable.

Similarly to GDPR, we are seeing a demand for legal professionals whose skillsets will help our government navigate our Brexit agreement. Our central government team have been tasked with assisting recruitment for departments to support the government and navigate the massive amounts of change Brexit will bring. This is a hot topic of debate at the moment as we see Theresa May negotiate our trade agreement with the EU!
It is difficult to see where some of these changes will leave the legal market, but it is crucial to keep up-to-date. Whether you are a permanent member of staff, a contractor or a current job seeker, It is imperative to keep ahead of the fluctuations in order to adapt as quickly as our markets will move. 

For more information on how you can change your market get in touch with me today by calling 0161 834 1642, or email me on kate.wilkinson@sellickpartnership.co.uk. Alternative you can view our latest roles using the link below.