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Bristol-headquartered Osborne Clarke has been forced to abolish its policy of automatically rejecting training contract applications from foreign nationals after being sued by an Indian student.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal held at the end of last month (March) that Osborne Clarke’s policy of never accepting training contract applications from candidates outside the EEA who needed a work permit was indirectly discriminating.
Until Osborne Clarke’s recent decision to change its stance on overseas students the firm’s online application generated an automated message, which read: “We are sorry but we are unable to accept applications from candidates who require a work permit to take up employment in the UK.”
Osborne Clarke claimed it thought it could not apply for a work permit for a trainee because it did not believe trainees could be said to be in ‘short supply’ and that given the number of applications it receives each year from suitably qualified candidates from either the UK or EEA it could not justify recruiting candidates from outside the UK or EEA.
Since the time the claim was made against Osborne Clarke new rules have been introduced regarding the eligibility criteria for a work permit.
The Law Society is lobbying the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which is responsible for issuing work permits, to get it to recognise that graduate recruitment in the legal sector is unique as law firms offer training contracts two years in advance of their start dates.
It is therefore difficult for them to satisfy the UKBA’s rule that all vacancies have to be filled within six months of being advertised.
In a separate move the Law Society has also assumed responsibility for granting powers to law firms to sponsor overseas students who want to participate one vacation scheme programmes.