An agent has started an online petition demanding negotiators and others in the agency industry be paid the legal minimum wage without taking their commission into account.
The agent - who wants to be anonymous but is using the name David - has contacted EAT to raise publicity for his campaign.
David works currently as a sales negotiator at a Midlands branch of a large corporate agency; he has previously worked for several other corporates.
“This is a problem particularly, but not only, in the big corporates. They’re not doing anything illegal because according to HMRC rules minimum wage is based on salary, commission and bonuses over a 12 month period. But it’s an issue of fairness” he explains.
He says some corporates ‘top up’ the salaries of negotiators whose commission in any one month fails to take them above the minimum wage; but then, if the negotiator exceeds the minimum wage in the following month through salary and commission combined, there is no top up.
“If you earn a commission you are basically gifting it to the company for a percentage of your income” David adds.
“If an agency wants a low staff headcount then use self-employed people - this is what Purplebricks does - but if you want offices to be staffed then pay employees the minimum wage” he demands.
The unfairness of the issue, he says, is made worse by the fact that most negotiators in corporates are contracted to work 38 hours a week “but often work 45 to 50 hours a week.”
“Generally speaking, independent agents tend to pay higher salaries with less or no reliance on commission. This is generally better” he adds.
David says he is not against the commission principle and says he is naturally a Conservative supporter, and in favour of agents “making something of themselves”.
He has had supportive messages in response to his first few days of raising the issue on LinkedIn and on Facebook; on Monday this week he set up the online Parliamentary petition in a bid to raise the profile of the issue still further.
He says the problem is rife within the agency industry but also exists in other sectors of the economy where commissions and bonuses are commonplace.
His petition is entitled ‘Stop commission and bonuses being used to make up minimum wage’ and reads: “The national minimum wage is put there to allow people to have what is perceived to be a minimum amount required to live yet companies use performance related bonuses to achieve this figure. They should be separate and minimum basic salary be one thing with performance related bonuses another.”