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Employee Share Schemes – The New Normal

09 June 2020

Covid 19 has revolutionised business, social and economic life in the UK and the rest of the World. Changes which were happening slowly are being accelerated so that progression which might have been expected to evolve over a decade or more is being compressed into months and sometimes days or weeks.

This applies with equal force to employee share schemes. They do not exist in a vacuum but as part of the labyrinth of factors affecting remuneration, corporate ownership, alignment of shareholders and employees and balancing returns on capital and labour. We foresee the impact of Covid 19 being to force a fundamental reconsideration of basic issues and redevelopment of the design and structure of employee ownership.

We are responding to this but considering what questions employers and their advisers will need to address. We are planning a series of articles to outline our thoughts, culminating in a webinar to be held later in the year.

Topics to be covered will include:

  • What is the role of all employee ownership in companies where the state is taking minority interests?
  • How should these holdings be structured? Should there be a new class of shares which combine with meaningful profit sharing or a trust for each company?
  • Is the trust model appropriate? Can it be adapted or is a new model needed?
  • Are SIPs fit for purpose?
  • Should executive share schemes become conditional on an all employee scheme being in place?
  • What should the fundamental review of EMI address?

 We are seeing substantial state support for industries across the Globe. For instance, the German government has taken a minority stake in the most profitable airline in the world to protect it from collapsing. With major companies receiving such support funded by tax paying employees, these are questions which are pressing and need to be addressed.

They also link into wider issues of intergenerational fairness and not pushing all the burdens on to future tax payers to protect the current owners of capital.

We are writing further articles to express our views and to stimulate discussion. If there are aspects you wish to discuss in the meantime, please contact William Franklin (william.franklin@pettfranklin.com) or Stephen Woodhouse (stephen.woodhouse@pettfrankin.com).

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