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What Is Employee Share Scheme

Updated: Feb 25

An Employee Share Scheme (ESS) is a program in which employees of a company are given the opportunity to own a stake in the company through the acquisition of shares. In the UK, there are various types of ESS, including Share Option Schemes, Share Incentive Plans, and Enterprise Management Incentives.

Share Option Schemes allow employees to purchase shares in the company at a discounted price. The options can either be granted at a fixed price or at a price that is based on the market value of the company's shares at the time of grant.

What Is Employee Share Scheme

If your organization offers you corporation stocks, you could get tax blessings, like no longer paying Income Tax or National Insurance on their value. Employee share schemes can involve giving free shares to personnel, granting them options to buy stocks at a certain rate after a particular period of time, or allowing personnel to buy stocks, and every so often matching those with unfastened ones.

What are the Benefits of Employee Share Schemes in the UK?

Employee share schemes in the UK can offer a range of benefits to both employers and employees. Here are some of the key benefits:

Increased Employee Engagement and Motivation

By giving employees a stake in the company, they become more invested in its success and are more likely to work harder and be more productive.

Retention of Key Talent

Employee share schemes can help to retain key employees by giving them a long-term incentive to stay with the company.

Improved Recruitment

Offering an employee share scheme can be an attractive perk for potential recruits, especially in competitive industries where talented employees are in high demand.

Tax Benefits

Some share schemes can offer tax advantages to both the company and the employee, which can make them an attractive option for both parties.

Alignment of Interests

By giving employees a share in the company, their interests are aligned with those of the company's shareholders, which can help to foster a culture of teamwork and collaboration.

Increased Liquidity

Employee share schemes can help to increase the liquidity of a company's shares by creating a market for them within the company. This can make it easier for shareholders to sell their shares when they need to.

Overall, employee share schemes can be a valuable tool for companies looking to attract, retain, and motivate talented employees, while also aligning their interests with those of the company's shareholders.

Tailor Your Share Scheme

To tailor a share scheme to the desires and desires of your enterprise, you may take the following steps:

  • Rewards for meeting objectives - make the award of shares or grant of options depending on accomplishing sure milestones, eg meeting specific sales goals.

  • Stock market flotation - structure the share scheme so that employees end up entitled to shares simplest if you promote or go with the flow of the organization on the inventory marketplace.

  • Limit the proportion scheme to certain key personnel, e.g. people with scarce managerial or technical talents.

  • Length of the carrier - require a positive number of years' provider to qualify for shares - however make sure you don't discriminate, eg it can quantity to illegal oblique sex discrimination if employees want five years' service to participate in your scheme however women on your business have a tendency to have less provider than men.

  • Consider special percentage schemes - run a mixture of share schemes or offer greater favourable phrases for administrators, eg a corporation management incentive scheme for administrators and a proportion incentive plan for another workforce. Consider the rules for tax-advantaged schemes earlier than doing so.

Other Types of Percentage Schemes

Share schemes accredited by way of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) can have tax and National Insurance contribution advantages. See HMRC-permitted share schemes. Taxed (unapproved) proportion schemes do not have tax blessings however they do not should meet the qualifying conditions for accepted schemes, meaning you've got greater flexibility in layout. See taxed employee proportion schemes.

While stocks in publicly traded companies can be bought and offered without difficulty, this isn't the case in a private employer, specifically when you have no plans to glide or sell the business. If you need employees to recognize the fee of their shares, recollect setting up and investment a worker gain accept as true with.

The worker benefit accept as true with can accumulate stocks on the market that aren't bought through anybody else and those can then be recycled - together possibly with newly issued stocks - to fulfil future demand from personnel.

Give some idea of how employees can see the value in their shareholding in case your corporation isn't publicly quoted. Shares in a personal business enterprise can be valued at the side of the Shares and Assets Valuation vicinity of HMRC.

Share Incentive Plans (SIPs)

If you get stocks through a Share Incentive Plan (SIP) and preserve them in the plan for five years you may no longer pay Income Tax or National Insurance on their value. Share Incentive Plans (SIPs) are a type of ESS that allow employees to save towards the purchase of shares in their employer's company. Employees can contribute up to £1,800 per year to a SIP, and the company can match their contributions with free shares.

You will now not pay Capital Gains Tax on shares you promote if you keep them inside the plan until you promote them. If you take them out of the plan and maintain them after which promote them later on, you would possibly pay Capital Gains Tax if their fee has multiplied.

There are 5 approaches you may get shares under SIPs:

1. Free Shares

Your agency can come up with up to £3600 of loose shares in any tax yr.

2. Partnership Stocks

You can buy stocks out of your profits before tax deductions. There’s a restriction to how a good deal you may spend - either £1,800 or 10% of your profits for the tax 12 months, whichever is lower.

3. Matching Shares

Your organization can provide you with up to two free matching shares for every partnership percentage you buy.

4. Dividend shares

You can be able to buy extra shares with the dividends you get from free, partnership or matching shares (however simplest in case your organization’s scheme allows it).

You will not pay Income Tax if you maintain the dividend shares for at least 3 years.

5. Company Share Option Plan

This offers you the choice to shop for as much as £30,000 well worth of shares at a hard and fast price. You will no longer pay Income Tax or National Insurance contributions at the difference between what you pay for the shares and what they’re really well worth.


A Save-As-You-Earn (SAYE) scheme permits employers to provide personnel proportion alternatives on a favourable tax basis. Employees contract to save a fixed quantity over a hard and fast savings duration, at the quit of which the financial savings can, in sure situations, entice a tax-unfastened bonus (see Question 5).

A 3 or 5-yr savings duration is ready at the start, as is the most variety of shares which can be offered on the applicable choice fee with the entire savings (and if it applies, an advantage) at the end of the settlement. The option fee may be at a discount of up to twenty% of the stocks' marketplace fee at the time of grant.

To offer SAYE, an enterprise have to either have its stocks listed or now not be below the control of another business enterprise, until that employer is indexed.


Enterprise Management Incentives (EMIs) are designed to incentivize employees who have a significant impact on the success of a company. Under an EMI scheme, employees can be granted options to purchase shares in the company at a discounted price. Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) alternatives give huge tax benefits to smaller trading companies by granting share alternatives to selected personnel.

An organization can best provide EMI if it meets the subsequent situations:

  1. It (or its organization) has gross assets of no extra than GBP30 million.

  2. A sizable part of its enterprise buying and selling sports complies with the specific requirements within the applicable tax regulation.

  3. It has fewer than 250 employees. Part-time employees are counted proportionally.

Where the agency is part of a collection:

The stocks over which the options are granted ought to share in the organization's ultimate parent enterprise. The institution needs to include as a minimum one company whose commercial enterprise trading sports comply with the legislative requirements (referred to above), and a good sized part of the group's commercial enterprise has to meet the one's necessities. The organization's subsidiaries need to all be 51% subsidiaries.

Company Share Option Plan (CSOP)


Under a Company Share Option Plan (CSOP), an employer can give employees alternatives to buy a fixed wide variety of stocks at a hard and fast price and within a hard and fast length. Options are typically granted at a fee that is identical to the shares' market cost at the date of furnish (they cannot be granted at a lower rate) and aren't commonly exercisable for 3 years from the date of grant.

To offer a CSOP, an enterprise has to both have its stocks indexed and not be under the control of another company. CSOPs are rather famous with indexed corporations because of their tax performance. They are usually used collectively with a non-tax favoured share alternative plan if the agency offers alternatives in excess of the man or woman CSOP limit (see below, Non-Tax Favoured Share Option Plan).

Do You Pay Tax on Employee Share Schemes in the UK?

Yes, employees are generally subject to tax on employee share schemes in the UK. The tax treatment will depend on the type of share scheme, the value of the shares, and other factors.

Here are some of the key tax implications of employee share schemes in the UK:

  • Unapproved share schemes: If an employee receives shares through an unapproved share scheme, they will generally be subject to income tax on the value of the shares at the time they are acquired. The employee may also be subject to National Insurance contributions on the value of the shares.

  • Approved share schemes: If an employee receives shares through an approved share scheme, such as a Share Incentive Plan (SIP) or an Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) scheme, the tax treatment will depend on the specific rules of the scheme. In general, there may be tax advantages for employees under these schemes, such as no income tax or National Insurance contributions on the value of the shares at the time they are acquired.

  • Capital gains tax: If an employee later sells the shares they acquired through a share scheme, they may be subject to capital gains tax on any increase in the value of the shares since they were acquired. However, there may be exemptions or reliefs available depending on the type of share scheme and other factors.

It's important to note that the tax rules surrounding employee share schemes can be complex, so employees should seek professional advice to fully understand the tax implications of any share scheme they participate in.

Non-Tax Favoured Share Option Plan

A corporation can provide percentage alternatives to any employees on any phrase. Any proportion choice plan that is not SAYE, EMI, or CSOP is a non-tax-favoured proportion option plan. Any form of employer can perform a non-tax-favoured share option plan.

These plans are utilized by businesses that do not qualify for any of the tax-efficient plans or that supply options to employees over the maximum limit set through the CSOP (see above, CSOP).

Can You Sell Employee Shares?

Yeah, you can usually sell employee shares in the UK. But, it depends on the type of share scheme you're in and what the rules say. Some schemes might have restrictions on when and how you can sell your shares.

For example, you might have to wait for a certain amount of time before you can sell them. Or, you might need to get permission from your employer first. But, if there aren't any restrictions, you can usually sell your shares on a stock exchange or to someone else who's interested. Just keep in mind that there might be tax implications when you sell your shares, so it's a good idea to get some advice to understand what's going on.

What Happens To Employee Shares When You Leave?

What happens to the shares you got from work when you leave a company in the UK depends on the rules of the share scheme and the company. If you haven't had the shares for long enough, you might lose some or all of them. If you can keep them, you might be able to sell them back to the company or someone else.

You might also be able to give them to someone else, like a family member or a trust. But, there might be some restrictions on when and how you can do this. It's important to read the rules of your share scheme to understand what will happen to your shares when you leave. And, it might be a good idea to get some help to understand any tax stuff that goes with it.

Let’s explore some possible scenarios:

Vesting Period

If you leave a company before your shares have fully vested, you may lose some or all of your shares. The vesting period is the period of time you need to remain employed with the company in order to be fully entitled to your shares. If you leave before the end of the vesting period, you may only be entitled to a proportionate amount of your shares.

Transferable Shares

Some share schemes may allow you to transfer your shares to another person or entity, such as a family member or a trust, when you leave the company. This will depend on the specific terms of the share scheme.

Sale of Shares

If you are entitled to keep your shares when you leave the company, you may have the option to sell them back to the company or to another shareholder. This will depend on the specific terms of the share scheme and the company's policies.

Retention of Shares

In some cases, you may be entitled to keep your shares when you leave the company, regardless of whether they have fully vested. However, you may still be subject to certain restrictions on when and how you can sell or transfer your shares.

It's important to review the terms of any share scheme you participate in to understand what will happen to your shares if you leave the company. You may also want to seek professional advice to fully understand your options and any tax implications of selling or transferring your shares.


ESS can provide a range of benefits for both employees and companies. For employees, ESS can provide the opportunity to acquire a stake in the company and benefit from its growth. This can help to align the interests of employees and shareholders, leading to a more motivated and productive workforce.

For companies, ESS can be a cost-effective way to attract, retain, and motivate employees. By granting shares or share options, companies can incentivize employees to work towards the company's goals and contribute to its success. This can result in improved performance, increased employee engagement, and reduced staff turnover.

However, ESS can also come with certain risks and challenges. For example, the value of shares acquired through an ESS can fluctuate, and employees may be required to hold the shares for a specified period of time before they can sell them. In addition, companies may face tax implications, such as National Insurance Contributions, when granting shares or options under an ESS.

Employee Share Schemes are a valuable tool for companies looking to incentivize and retain employees, and for employees looking to acquire a stake in the company they work for. However, companies and employees should carefully consider the risks and challenges associated with ESS, and seek professional advice where necessary.

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