The Employee Ownership Manual
Published in November 2019 and written by Robert Postlethwaite with Jeremy Gadd, The Employee Ownership Manual is a practical guide and reference book which explains in a comprehensive but approachable manner all the key legal, tax and practical issues that arise for a company becoming owned by its employees.
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- 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.
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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 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