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Graham Awards


Agents' pay scandal: Campaign demands minimum wage

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.”

 You can see it here.

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    Wonder if “David” is a millennial? .....

    Rob  Davies

    What's that got to do with anything? Expecting to be paid at least a minimum wage is now demanding too much, is it?

    It's got nothing to do with his age and everything to do with fairness. Employers should pay a living wage - i.e. one that allows people to cover their basic living costs without falling into debt - and agency should be no different.

    No-one should have to work for peanuts in one of the world's richest countries.

    I don't think it's expecting too much for people to expect a fair and decent wage if they do a decent job. If they don't, well, that's another story - but I can't really understand the defensive reaction to this story.


    Pointless and nasty comment.

  • icon

    Life is about choices - if you are not happy with your salary, do something constructive about it. Either find an alternative position or SSFH !!

  • icon

    Sounds like he’s moved around a lot, which probably means he’s not doing very well. I have always found that successful negotiators have been more interested in the overall package, rather than focusing on the basic.If he put as much effort in his performance, as he did his parliamentary activities, I dont think this conversation would be happening. David, I don’t think this industry is for you.

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    David is right, as an independent agent and employer I have always offered a decent basic salary far above minimum wage and a relatively small commission, based on shared office pot, so that staff have some incentive to perform but not an incentive for unpleasant practice and a 'me' rather than team attitude. When I had been employed by a large corporate I had been unimpressed at the behaviours caused by too much reliance on commission.

    However, if agents get together to work on a fair system for paying staff then why should the law jump on them for getting together to work on a fair fee to charge customers? If there is a minimum wage for employees why not a minimum fee for employers?

    Oh yes, the law calls that price fixing. Funny old world.

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    Same as Michael
    Pay a fair wage you get loyal and hard working staff.
    Commission is the cream on top for hard work and results.

  • James Robinson

    We have tried many different pay structures including 100% commission with no basics, plus a minimum wage payment if the negotiator fails to perform that month. We have tried pool commissions with basics and have settled on the popular basic plus commission. Without question all our top performing negotiators have wanted to be on more commission weighted packages and the low performers want large basics plus pool commission, or what I call 'turning up money'.
    If your employer is providing sufficient instructions for the negotiators to hit their targets, and you are not, then its probably time to get more training, improve your work ethic or consider other careers. Possibly in the public sector.

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    We all know why this situation exists in corpoate estate agency. High staff turnover as a result of all sorts of cultural shortcomings means they have to employ unsuitable people. The good prosper. The majority are simply canon fodder.


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