Major UK charity stops fundraising with Norwich firm following worker pay concerns

PUBLISHED: 21:52 13 March 2018 | UPDATED: 19:00 14 March 2018

Workers raising money for Battersea Dogs Home outside Primark in Norwich. Photo: Archant

Workers raising money for Battersea Dogs Home outside Primark in Norwich. Photo: Archant


A major UK charity has stopped fundraising activity with a Norwich-based firm following concerns about workers’ pay.

In December, Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions was accused of exploiting young workers by only paying them commission rather than a minimum wage.

Former workers said the firm, based on Silver Road, used a business model which can see people work up to 10 hours-a-day without guaranteed pay, as the pay is entirely based on commission.

This is despite job adverts claiming people can earn up to £27,000 per year in marketing roles with “uncapped commission-only pay”.

Following our investigation into the company last year, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has now revealed it has stopped using the firm for fundraising.

It said at the end of January this year it was “winding down” activity with Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions, and there has been “no activity” since February 2.

The charity previously said it was carrying out its own investigation following our report.

Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions has been used by other major charities including the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Its fundraisers are asked to approach people in the street to get them to sign up to charities.

They are self-employed meaning they do not have to be paid the minimum wage. It means they can end up going home with no money for a day’s work.

Paying fundraisers commission goes against the fundraising code of practice unless certain conditions are met.

But Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions previously said workers are self-employed and so it is acting legally by not paying them the minimum wage.

The company did not respond to our request for a comment.

A spokesman for Battersea said: “We were most grateful that you drew our attention to this issue in your area and we took all concerns about the company very seriously and began an investigation.

“We looked into this in full [and] we did wind down activities with them and there has been no activity since 2 February.”

The National Deaf Children’s Society did not respond to our request for comment.

However, it previously said it worked with agencies to make sure that employees were given clear information about their pay and employment status.

Our investigation

In December we sent a reporter undercover to apply for a “retail kiosk” assistant role, advertised with a wage at £18,000 to £26,000 a year as well as “uncapped commission only pay”.

Our reporter was offered the self-employed role, along with £600 a month for living expenses on a temporary basis - the equivalent of £7,200 a year and well below the national minimum wage.

The rest of his pay would need to come from commission.

During the initial interview, our reporter was told by the company’s managing director Simon Reynolds that he could be running his own office within 12 months. But the first few weeks would involve face-to-face sales.

Despite the company advertising nine different roles, the majority appear to involve approaching people in the street or in shopping centres.

Workers make money by getting the public to sign up to various schemes, many of them fundraising for charity.

Those who manage to convince someone to sign-up earn between £20 to £30 for each sale. However, those who do not, go home 
empty-handed after working a long shift and may lose money once travel expenses are taken into account.

University of East Anglia graduate Matthew Walsh said he briefly worked for Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions in August 
this year.

The 22-year-old said he was drawn in by the offer of graduate management training for a marketing role.

“They make it sound like you are working in a graduate scheme,” he said. “They spoke about how you can make £100,000 in a year. But really it is about getting work out of people for nothing.”

Mr Walsh, who now works for City College Norwich, said he was tasked with getting people to sign up to the National Deaf Children’s Society.

He added: “During my interview I mentioned being uneasy with the commission pay structure and was told by both Simon (Reynolds - the managing director) and my trainer that they sometimes do base salaries for new starters while they find their feet.

“On my first day I asked about this again and was dismissed out of hand because my living costs were apparently too low.”

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