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I understand that the question I'm about to ask might seem unorthodox, but I've been offered a role that's offering £62-65k and I wish to ask for a lower salary. After multiple searches online, I've found it difficult to find any post that can relate to my current situation. Reason being I've just moved into an apartment that is offering me below market rate in a capital city provided I'm earning under £60k. The move was very stressful and I don't intend doing that again for the next 2-3 years. The start-up company I hope to be employed with, which has huge potential of being successful, has an exit strategy planned after 3-5 years and offers buy-ins for company shares. Do you believe it reasonable that I request a salary less than £60k, with the remainder going to shares in the company? Any advice you could offer would be very much welcomed and extremely appreciated. Many thanks in advance!

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    You are asking about how to do something... but it is not at all clear why you want to do it. What will a lower salary do for you, and how sure are you that this is the best way to accomplish it?
    – keshlam
    Commented Feb 7 at 0:52
  • Given the current climate and the layoffs faced in the tech and finance industry, I am keen to secure employment immediately. I support this company's mission and would like to see them succeed in fulfilling their goals. I'm new to this industry, having recently succeeded with a 1.1 degree in computer science in my late 30s, and securing a position that offers significantly more (to make my rental position financially viable I would need at least 20k+ more in salary) might be challenging. @keshlam I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Ask away if you've any concerns or questions!
    – user143627
    Commented Feb 7 at 1:11
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    related: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/44827/… Commented Feb 7 at 1:25
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    @keshlam OP's said their subsidy/discount is contingent on making under 60k. If there's a sharp cutoff at the next verification check (which I'd assume is at least once/year, and wouldn't be surprised if it's monthly) the extra 2000/year could end up costing them several times that in higher housing costs (or worse if making too much means they're no longer able to live in the building at all). While that sort of design creates perverse incentives it can happen. Commented Feb 7 at 1:34
  • My rental is part of a scheme that gives you 1/3 of the market rate because I earn less than £60k and I can continue this for 3 years! I've just moved out of a studio apartment for more than double my current rental rate for one-bed purely because of this. This is the average market rent which I struggle to support. I'm not trying to underprice myself, I know my worth, but for now I'm content with this valuation. I would need an additional 20k for this to be financially viable
    – user143627
    Commented Feb 7 at 1:36

5 Answers 5

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While this might seem odd to you, to inexperienced HR and to new faces like a new startup, it actually is something that comes up once in a while. A person will have very specific requests connected to outside circumstances, like divorces, child support, tax brackets, savings plans or even housing costs. I had a few of those cases over the years and I am not even an HR person. It happens, and if you can explain why, it actually makes you look like someone in control of their finances,.

From my point of view, what is important to just spell it out to the people who are not that deep into it like you are.

  1. acknowlegde your request is odd
  2. explain "why" just enough to make sure you come across as someone who is very much in control of their finances
  3. ask for it directly

So for example:

Dear HR person,
I really like your offer. I recognize that this may seem a bit of an odd request, but can we adjust the monetary part of it downwards just a bit? I have contracts and obligations that start at earning 60K and at the end of the day, I have more money in the bank making 59K, than making 62K. What can I say, sometimes contracts and taxes work in weird ways. If you could throw in some non-monetary benefits, like maybe a day or two more PTO in addition to the 59K, I would appreciate it.

You need to find your own style to say this, communicating with them so far has gotten you an offer, so just continue with whatever style you used before.

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    +1 for the PTO suggestion.
    – TonyK
    Commented Feb 8 at 1:21
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Do you believe it reasonable that I request a salary less than £60k,

IMO that's perfectly fine. While the ask is unorthodox you have a very good reason for it and you can show hard data that backs you up. This may turn out to be a win-win: more money in both of your pockets. Just tell them. The only risk here is that someone could consider this "unethical" since you are using a subsidy system in way it's not intended. However, you are so close to the line that I consider this highly unlikely.

with the remainder going to shares in the company?

Careful here. You need to find out exactly how the compensation for your rent subsidy is defined and calculated. Share grants are typically taxable income and would show up in your tax return. Stock options may be a way around that, but these are complicated and you should have a tax advisor and local lawyer take a look at that.

I wouldn't push to hard on that one. Employee stock plans are expensive and complicated to set up and they will not create or change one just for you. Any equity compensation would need to happen inside the legal framework that already exists, so flexibility here may be limited.

Run the math: if in total you are doing better with lower salary and lower rent, then go for it (stock or not).

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I have been in a similar situation, where the first home loan I was getting had an upper salary limit. I had to show my last bank statement with the salary. I had just started a new job. I talked with my new boss and explained what the issue was. And they obliged by paying me less for two months and then I went back on the offered amount.

So

  • Find out how long you need to be on the lower salary.
  • Explain to someone in authority (Either HR or your Boss)
  • And ensure that the salary will go up again, after the initial period.
  • I wouldn't try to claim the amount you lost, because then it could be viewed as fraud by the other party.
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    This is basically cheating the housing provider. Commented Feb 9 at 17:50
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This is an unusual situation, and I wouldn't bring it up prior to receiving an offer. You never want to make things more complicated before the company has committed to you.

At that point, you'd need to explain your situation, probably including how many thousands of pounds you'd lose in benefits for earning above £60k, and ask if they can work with you on a compensation package that keeps under the limit.

The good news is that a startup probably doesn't have any rigidly defined policies that would make what you want impossible. The bad news is that unless it happens to align with one of the founders interests they probably won't have the sort of oddball perks that a bigger company will often end up having available.

While additional shares or options are the most obvious form of non-monetary compensation you could get from a startup, you should see if there are other perks that wouldn't be held against you. In a US context I'd consider asking for an extra week of vacation, a free gym membership, or company paid 3rd party training/certificates. I don't know what would be reasonable in the UK.

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  • Your advice is beyond appreciated, and the offer is still pending, that's exactly why i decided to seek your advice ahead of it. Thank you for all the info provided
    – user143627
    Commented Feb 7 at 2:12
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    I disagree, Preparing a formal offer can be a cumbersome and time consuming (HR, Legal, approval chain) and as a hiring manage I prefer doing this only once and NOT having to redo this. Discuss the details first and don't put it on paper until there is general agreement.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Feb 7 at 2:15
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    @Hilmar unless your company refuses to negotiate after issuing an offer I fail to see your point. Normally a potential employee would be trying to negotiate salary up and add perks. Adjusting the former down by a few thousand instead of up by the same amount shouldn't be intrinsically any more difficult. Commented Feb 7 at 3:06
  • It's not more difficult if it happens BEFORE the full paperwork is done. This is more about the order of the things, not the thing itself. I don't want to go through the full approval loop every time I make a small adjustment in the package. Let's sort this out up front.
    – Hilmar
    Commented Feb 8 at 2:28
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Don’t.

The salary has already been offered. You’re worth it - or you better be, a startup isn’t going to keep on dead weight if you don’t contribute.

You can ask about shares though. Usually a startup would have already handed you the magic beans in lieu of higher salary if they were disposed to, however. They may have an employee stock purchase plan in which case sure, use some of your salary to buy stock.

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  • @mxxypik Thank you! I know I'm worth that and more, but it'll be more financially viable for me to accept a lower rate, given my current rental rates. I plan to exit in the next couple of years along with the company exit plan. I'm confident in my ability to significantly contribute to this company. I will look into the stock employee purchase plan though. Beyond appreciative for all of your responses
    – user143627
    Commented Feb 7 at 2:03