An employee owned company is totally or significantly owned by its employees. Employee ownership is the fastest growing form of business ownership in the UK.
An increasing number of business owners planning retirement are arranging for their employees to take over ownership of their firm, and entrepreneurs creating new businesses are seeing the advantages that employee ownership can bring for business growth.
What is employee ownership?
A business is generally “employee owned” where the whole, a majority or a significant part of it is owned by or on behalf of all its employees
There are three main forms of employee ownership, it can be direct (shares held by employees individually), indirect (shares are held in a trust) or a hybrid of the two.
Here are links to guide pages for each of these:
Generally, trust ownership will be simpler both to set up and run. But this does not make it the automatic best choice for all companies. We will help you decide which route to employee ownership would work best for you after a detailed discussion about your company and plans.
In 2014, the government introduced two new tax reliefs intended to encourage more companies to adopt employee ownership. In the years since then over 470 UK companies have become owned by an employee ownership trust, mainly as part of an ownership succession plan for their founders, but they also include public-service spin outs, start-ups, ownership change as part of growth and expansion plans or as a route to recovery following insolvency or closure threat.
Watch the video below to hear Robert Postlethwaite explain what employee ownership means in more detail.
FOR MORE INFORMATION AND FOR ANSWERS TO YOUR EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP QUESTIONS CLICK ON THE ARROWS BELOW
- More engaged and committed employees
- Building a clear shared purpose and collaborative way of working
- Ownership succession which preserves your business and its culture
- A stronger performing business
- A committment to the longer term
- Leadership succession can be implemented over time
- Retiring owners can be paid market value for their shares
- Tax reliefs for retiring owners and employees alike
- Enhanced returns for investors
- Employee ownership can be implemented at a pace which matches that of any retiring owners.
Employee ownership may be one of the greatest business succession solutions you’ve never heard of.
Establishing an employee ownership trust to buy out retiring owners is increasingly popular.
Companies in the news recently for transitioning to employee ownership include
- Richer Sounds
- Riverford Organics
- Aardman Animations (the makers of Wallace and Gromit)
Not only does it often solve the kinds of succession problem that many owners face, it creates a strong platform for continued success and growth through having engaged and motivated new owners and brings statutory tax reliefs for both retiring owners and employees.
To read more click here
Through a detailed investigation of your business and objectives, we will help you make the best decision.
There are three main forms of employee ownership:
- Individual share ownership
- A combination of trust and individual ownership (hybrid)
- Trust ownership
Generally, trust ownership will be simpler both to set up and run. But this does not make it the automatic best choice for all companies
Which of these will be the best solution will depend on your company and its employees. To help you decide click here for more information
Employee ownership is reported to be the fastest growing form of business ownership in the UK.
An increasing number of business owners planning retirement are arranging for their employees to take over the ownership and entrepreneurs creating new businesses are seeing the advantages that employee ownership can bring for business growth.
Whilst large businesses such as John Lewis are high profile examples of successful employee-owned companies, there is a large and growing number of smaller companies – in diverse sectors – that are also employee-owned.
To read a detailed guide to becoming an employee owned company click here
In November 2020 EO Boost, a virtual event was delivered by the Employee Ownership Association (EOA), it offered engaging learning and insightful discussions on what good employee ownership (EO) looks like – for individuals, businesses and the UK economy.
The content can be accessed by members of the EOA which some of the broader panel discussions being made available onYouTube.
Each day, EO Boost offered something for everyone, whether you’re just taking your first steps into understanding Employee Ownership or you’ve been EO for decades, there are sessions to meet your needs.
– Explorers of employee ownership
– EO businesses
– Supporters and advocates
– EO Advisers
In some employee-owned businesses, the ownership is indirect through an employee trust which owns all or most of the shares on behalf of employees as a whole, with no single employee ever holding shares personally. This is how companies like John Lewis and Arup have structured their employee ownership.
This form of ownership has the advantage of simplicity, as it avoids the need to transfer shares to new employees and buy them back from leavers or employees who simply wish to sell. Rather than being paid out to shareholders as dividends, profits can be shared with employees by way of bonuses. If the trust is a statutory employee ownership trust which owns a majority of the company, bonuses can be paid income tax free.
Our guide to becoming an employee-owned company compares individual with trust-based employee ownership.
Here, if you want your company to be employee-owned (that is, all, a majority or significant part of the company is to be owned by its employees individually) this will involve your employees acquiring shares personally (and being issued with a share certificate as evidence of their holding), so that they have direct ownership of part of the company.
Although trust ownership is simpler to set up and operate than individual share ownership, you may prefer the latter if, for example, you place a high value on personal investment by employees or the prospect of employees benefitting from capital growth if company performs well.
Our guide to becoming an employee owned company compares individual with trust-based employee ownership.
There are two tax-advantaged employee share schemes which can make it significantly easier financially for employees to acquire shares in their company:
A “hybrid” form of employee ownership combines individual employee ownership and trust ownership.
Employees will be enabled to acquire shares individually, but an employee trust will always maintain a minimum level of ownership. This approach is often chosen by companies which see strong advantages in employees holding shares personally, but which also see value in having a strategic shareholding held by a single shareholder. It can also have the advantage of reducing the number of shares in circulation and so minimising the potential need in the future to fund the repurchase of shares from employees wishing to sell.
Our guide to becoming an employee-owned company compares individual, trust-based and hybrid employee ownership.
An employee benefit trust (or EBT) is a trust under which property (very often shares in the company which the employees work for, but sometimes also cash) is held on their behalf.
In the past, employee benefit trusts have been used as income tax avoidance devices. Legislation has now closed this down, but EBTs have an entirely legitimate role in companies which have an employee share scheme or employee ownership (normally then as an employee ownership trust), in particular:
- The long term holding of a strategic block of shares on behalf of employees
- Buying shares from employees participating in an employee share scheme who wish to sell their shares (or have to because they are leaving their company)
An EOT is an employee benefit trust which has particular tax benefits
If you are unsure whether employee ownership is right for your company look at this list for examples from many and varying business sectors who are employee-owned
Employee ownership.....if not now, when?
EO Boost, was a virtual event delivered in November by the Employee Ownership Association (EOA), offering engaging learning and insightful discussions on what good employee ownership (EO) looks like – for individuals, businesses and the UK economy.
In a year where so much has changed because of Covid-19, the EOA curated EO Boost to offer EOA members, other EO businesses, those exploring employee ownership and other interested stakeholders, the opportunity to top up or gain more current knowledge and insight about employee ownership in the UK in 2020.
Postlethwaite were proud to have co-sponsored the event with J Gadd Associates and participated in daily explorer sessions.
The sessions were all recorded, you can see some below and others will be available to members of the EOA, so that is another good reason for considering membership.
EO Boost Keynote Interview – Guy Singh-Watson & Charlotte Tickle – Riverford Organic Farmers
EO Boost Keynote Interview – Matthew Lee & Emma Thomas – Aber Instruments
EO Boost Keynote Interview – Ann-Marie Conway & John Baumback – Seetec
EO Boost Panel Discussion – What makes a good business, can it do well and do good?
EO Boost Panel Discussion – What role does good business have in the economy to build back better?
EO Boost Panel Discussion – What does good business look like for the individual?
A feasibility study: is employee ownership for us?
How to become employee owned; the best practice project plan
EO businesses reflect on lessons learnt during the transition journey
Who are we and how can we help you
We are a law firm specialising in employee ownership. Leaders in our field, we work with businesses across many sectors and of many sizes. Our practical approach, know how, ability to demystify and technical knowledge all enable us to help you create an employee ownership structure that is right for your business, its people and current owners