Indentured Labour

You know how it goes. They met on a stag-do but he lives in Manchester and she lives with her parents in Hastings. And now she’s having his baby and he wants to move to live with her and be a dad.

But true love’s path is never easy.

Dave had signed up with Capita under its ‘Novus Graduate’ programme – designed to “give the best possible start in the IT industry.” And for a fee – in Dave’s case more than £15,000 – Capita promised to give him some training. And then, if he worked for them for two years, they’d waive the cost.

Fair enough – but there was a wrinkle. The training was really poor – often the trainer just didn’t show up and mostly it consisted of online video courses which he could buy online for $29 a month. And when the training was done Capita’s only obligation was to offer him an assignment within three months. He, on the other hand, had to seek permission to work for anyone else – which they’d usually refuse. And his employment could be terminated on a month’s notice – with him then having to pay the whole £15,000. And, worst of all, he could be required to work anywhere, nationwide, for short or long term assignments.

So he went to Capita to ask for permission to go be a father to his child, to base himself in Hastings. But the answer came back: “sorry, we haven’t got any clients in Hastings.” Being a Dad will cost you £15,000 – which Dave didn’t have.

And when Dave called me to ask: “can they do this to me”? I told him I didn’t think so but I couldn’t guarantee the court would agree. So he said it would probably be best for him to stick it out in Manchester. He didn’t fancy starting life as a father a further £15,000 underwater.

And Dave is not alone. Capita (market value over £2bn) has its scheme. But similar schemes are operated by FDM (market value over £1bn) any Sparta Global – and quite possibly others. FDM claims to have launched the careers of 5,000 graduates to date. And Capita says it wants to be “the best career choice for talented graduates in the UK.”

And all of these graduates are operating in a kind of tied servitude. Tied for years to a faceless behemoth working off an inflated debt on unfair terms. On something that looks less like a legitimate training scheme and more like a clever way of hooking the naïve – or the desperate.


Among the protections the law gives to us all is the right to work and make a living how and where we choose. It’s not an absolute right – the law balances against it an employers’ right to protect its legitimate interests. But we want to ask the courts to weigh it on the scales against indentured service for inflated training costs on unequal terms.

We want to ask the High Court to declare these arrangements unlawful. Graduate Fog, the market leading site for young graduates, has found us four individuals who are prepared to be claimants and have been chased by Capita and FDM and Sparta for the money. A US firm that has pioneered operating an international pro bono practice alongside the commercial work that pays the bills – Crowell & Moring – has agreed to act without charge. And heavy hitting employment QC, Sean Jones, and rising star Michael Lee have agreed to act for a substantial discount on their normal fees.

But still we need your help.

We believe – and with good reason – that we are right on the law. But the other side can spend us out of court – if we lose we will have to pick up Capita and FDM and Sparta’s costs and we just don’t have that kind of money. So we need, we think, £10,000 each in case they come after us. And a further £20,000 to pay our own costs of fighting these three giants.

This generation is already labouring under a burden of massive student loans, profiteering interest rates, insecure employment and inflated house prices. Please – let’s remove one weight from their backs. Help us protect them from rapacious employers. Support us here.

*Some names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent.

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