Working holidays are a grey area

I am a senior consultant with Learned Friends, an Australian-owned legal recruitment agency. We naturally attract a lot of qualified Australian, New Zealand and South African lawyers who come to the UK on a variety of visas, including the two-year working holiday visa. It was with considerable interest therefore that I read Ms Onslow-Cole's article in The Lawyer (18 October) warning of the dangers of employing solicitors who were on two-year working holiday visas.

I agree with Ms Onslow-Cole in that it is illegal to employ solicitors on two-year working holiday visas in permanent positions. As stated, working holidaymakers are not permitted to take up employment in furtherance of their career, or rather, are only allowed to take "employment incidental to a holiday". However, employing a solicitor on a two-year working holiday visa as a temporary paralegal (or even on a 12-month contract) does not contravene the visa restrictions as currently enforced by the Home Office. Whether recently qualified or not, solicitors are not furthering their careers by working as paralegals.

The current wording of the restrictions as imposed on the two-year working holiday visa is open to a variety of different interpretations. Undertaking employment that is not in "furtherance of your career" can be construed to mean just about anything.

As yet there are still no test cases on the visa restrictions and in this respect, it is important to acknowledge that these are largely uncharted waters, a crucial point that Ms Onslow-Cole fails to make.

What can be said with certainty, however, is that reputable agencies are well aware of restrictions imposed on candidates working on two-year holiday visas. It is important to note that agencies are equally liable for any breach committed by a candidate temping through them and as such, strictly observe the limitations of the two-year working holiday visa with the due care and attention that it deserves.

Rosemary Curtin, Learned Friends