three happy business women at work celebrating achievement

Employee Ownership Day 2022, which was on the 24th June, is an annual celebration of Employee Ownership (EO) for thousands of employee owners, EO businesses and EO supporters to join together, informing and educating on the benefits of employee ownership. There is traditionally a week of activity leading up to a day of celebration.

Our firm Stephens Scown became the first large UK law firm to be employee owned from 2016. As employee ownership legal experts we advise and support clients through their own EO journeys. Our staff enthusiastically take part in EO day and Stephens Scown features on the Employee Ownership Association’s map of EO events marking the occasion. Our plans for Employee ownership day 2022 is to include our first post-pandemic EO staff party. We will also be sharing our activity on social media throughout the day/week.

The theme for Employee Ownership Day 2022

This year’s theme for EO Day is hashtag #GrowEO. Over the past few years the EO sector has experienced unprecedented growth. There are more than 800 employee owned businesses in the UK, employing more than 180,400 people. Between 2020 to 2021, employee ownership increased by more than 30% in the UK.

According to the Employee Ownership Association, between January 2020 and June 2021 there were 250 new employee owned businesses. An estimated 100 more organisations transitioned to EO later in 2021 and growth has continued into 2022. Much of this growth has been due to SME’s transitioning using the Employee Ownership Trust model.

What is Employee Ownership?

Employee ownership takes one of three formats:

  • Direct employee ownership – achieved by one or more tax advantaged share plans, where employees are registered individual shareholders of a majority of the shares in their company; or
  • Indirect employee ownership – shares are held collectively on behalf of employees, usually through an employee trust; or]
  • Combined direct and indirect ownership – a combination of individual and collective share ownership.

Employee ownership arises out of different situations. In our experience the most two common are either where an employer wishes to be more inclusive in the ownership of their organisation in order to recruit, retain and motivate staff. Alternatively, as a succession plan where a business is privately owned by an entrepreneur or is run as a family business and the owner wishes to transfer ownership to the workforce.

How could EO benefit your organisation?

As many employers currently struggle to recruit and retain staff, being an employee owned business can make you an employer of choice. Staff are attracted and engaged by the prospect of being a ‘business owners’ and EO organisations are able to pay out dividends or an annual ‘bonus’ to staff. Proven EO benefits include tax advantages, better productivity, increased sales growth, staff are attracted to an organisation which is more likely to chime with their social responsibility values, and increased recruitment pools. See our article on Employee ownership: driving business performance for more information.

It is worth noting that employee ownership does not necessarily mean handing over 100% of a business. It can be a percentage or your company that becomes employee owned. Furthermore, this can be phased over a period of time.

How Stephens Scown can help on your Employee Ownership journey?

We are legal experts in advising and supporting clients with Employee Ownership. This has included learning through our own experience of becoming an employee owned business. You can view our guide to employee ownership here.

We offer a free thirty minute initial consultation, which can help identify whether or not employee ownership should be something that should be on your agenda as a succession or growth strategy. A call can quickly focus on some of the issues that may be pertinent to you and your business and help to determine if you should apply a little more time and resource to investigating thoroughly.

We also offer our Employee Ownership Discovery day for a deeper dive (and the costs of that are discounted against our costs if you engage us on an EO project), with up to 3 hours of time available, our Employee Ownership team can work with you to consider the opportunities presented by Employee Ownership to your business.