For the past six weeks I have been temping at a medium-sized lawfirm (just under 100 employees) as a three month contract assistant practice manager/admin position. It was a last minute position as my predecessor is on long-term sick leave. Given my job insecurity, the higher cost of living, etc., I was keen to secure the contract and at the interview said that I was willing to do whatever to help out in the company. I also felt that saying something like that would prove that I was an eager candid it and that it would set me apart from any competitor interviewees. Unfortunately this comment has now transpired to be a poison chalice of sorts. I have been given any and all work. I wasn't actually given a formal contract so there is no formal job description. I seem to be a catchall for all tasks that need to be carried out. Given that I am a temporary employee, permanent employees are in no way helpful to me and I also believe that there is an element that they are worried about their job security and any weakness on my part will only secure their job for the future. It is really been hell. I made an informal complaint to my boss about the sheer workload and how I was being told to do anything and everything and he directly quoted me from the interview saying that you were happy to do whatever was needed to be done and what ever you could. I feel this is unfair. Whilst I may have had a helpful and can-do attitude I feel that that has now been exploited to what feels a lot like slave labour. I work non-stop I don't even have time for a lunch break and I am one of the lowest paid employees there, I am just slightly above the minimum wage. The level of responsibility and workload is in no way proportionate to the pay that I am receiving.

I have two questions that I need advice on.

  1. If I just leave am I liable for anything? I did not receive any kind of contract I was just told that I had the job please come in. I'm aware that if I leave abruptly with no notice I'm not going to be able to secure a reference. As it's just been six weeks I'm willing to take that risk. I'm not particularly concerned about professionalism as frankly they don't seem particularly professional to me either despite being a reputable city law firm.

  2. For future interviews, should I just never say that I'm willing to do whatever is needed to help out. I have always thought that shows a can-do and eager attitude but I have now found that that is something that can get exploited. Would you recommend candidates say a phrase such as that and if not what would be a suitable alternative?

  • What are your typical working hours? Do you work at the weekends too? Do you never get paid overtime?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 11, 2022 at 6:24
  • 9-6 working hours. no weekends. no overtime as such unless you count working lunch breaks.
    – user311438
    Feb 11, 2022 at 7:32
  • 1
    What jurisdiction are you in? "If I just leave am I liable for anything?" depends incredibly on this. Feb 11, 2022 at 9:39
  • Does this answer your question? Being taken advantage of in an interview?
    – gnat
    Feb 11, 2022 at 10:48
  • Hi. I'm in London UK. The reason why I work through my lunch break is because of the sheer volume of work. I also walk in 15 minutes early and tend to leave 15 to 20 minutes late. So this is a good hour and a half free work they're getting out of me.
    – user311438
    Feb 11, 2022 at 11:05

3 Answers 3


While you work out what to do in the longer term, start working your proper hours. And that includes taking your lunch breaks.

If they give you more work than you can do in a day, then it's not going to get finished until the next day. At the moment, the more work they give you, the harder you work, so they don't see any problem.


First, get a contract. Better would have been to get the contract sorted before starting to work for them, but that's water under the bridge now. Without a written contract, all sorts of bad things can happen, as you don't have anything to point to, if you feel treated unfairly.

Second, the type of tasks you are doing: I don't think there is anything you can do. An "admin/assistant" position is very broad, and you don't even have that written down. Getting coffee for higher ups? Sure. wipe off the desks? Totally in job scope. Copy stuff the whole day? Check. It really doesn't matter what you said in the interview. Even if you told them "I only want to do front desk work", they could still give you all that other tasks.

What you can do: Don't give away work for free. Work the time you get paid for, nothing more. If you are full of tasks for the day and somebody wants to pile another on top, it's your responsibility to decline. "Hey, I'm out of time for today. If you really need to get that done today, talk to my manager".

I don't know if not showing up can harm you in the long run. Some industries have very tight networks. So ditching that job at Law Firm A may get you in trouble the next time you apply at a different Law Firm. "Hey, isn't that Alice? The one who didn't bother to show up down the street at Lawman&Co?"

For the future: Insist on a written contract. If you have some "hard limits" what tasks you just don't want to do, get it in writing that this is beyond the job scope. But I can imagine that you will get a lot of resistance there. Administration jobs are by definition "catch all" jobs, where you do everything the more expensive colleagues don't want to do.

  • 5
    A contract won't help much though - it will be very generic as regards to tasks. The key is this point you made "Work the time you get paid for, nothing more. " Make sure you take your breaks and lunch, when you are working do the best job you can but don't fret about activities other than the one you ae working on right then. They're taking advantage of you so you need to manae the situation - if you are blocked from a task due to non-cooperation of others document that and move on to the next one.
    – deep64blue
    Feb 11, 2022 at 9:52

If I just leave am I liable for anything? [...] I'm in London UK

The theoretical situation is that UK courts will act as though there were an employment contract in place if both sides are acting as if there were, even if no contract actually exists. This is almost exactly the situation this is designed to cover: you are turning up to work every day as if you are an employee, and they are paying you as if you were an employee - therefore both sides get protection as if there were a contract. In the absence of anything else, the default statutory notice period applies which is one week once you have been employed for a month.

Therefore right now, having been employed for less than a month, you would not be liable for anything. If you work for another week, you would in theory be liable for the damages caused to your employer's business by you not turning up.

The practical situation is that nobody is going to bother to go to court over one week's work from a minimum wage employee; the time they would waste doing this would far outweigh anything they might get back.

  • 1
    "The practical situation is that nobody is going to bother to go to court over one week's work from a minimum wage employee; the time they would waste doing this would far outweigh anything they might get back." May not apply if it's a law firm, it gives the interns some practice. OP said they've been working there for 6 weeks, so giving 1 weeks notice and working to the best of their ability would be a better approach.
    – JeffUK
    Feb 11, 2022 at 11:59
  • On the other hand, you can give a week notice, do a reasonable amount of work, and what’s the worst they can do? Fire you?
    – gnasher729
    Feb 12, 2022 at 17:28

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