National Insurance 

Surge in use of employee share schemes

Surge in use of employee share schemes

A record number of companies are operating employee share schemes, according to analysis by British-based outsourcing business Equiniti.

Equiniti analysed annual data by HM Revenue & Customs and found that 11,850 companies offered such schemes through 2016 to 2017.

This granted options to nearly half a million employees and, with more than eight million awards and purchases of share incentive plan (Sip) shares, the initial value of shares and options granted totalled £3.68bn.

Share incentive plan shares provided income tax and National Insurance contribution relief with an estimated £410m of savings to companies and their employees.

Phil Ainsley, director of employee services at Equiniti, said: "Employee share schemes are a fantastic way for companies to reward and motivate their employees – a core element of the UK labour market DNA.

"Not only do employees benefit from tax efficiencies but they boost engagement within the workforce and encourage both better understanding and proactive decisions in financial planning.

"At a time when there is a squeeze on disposable income, these schemes continue to attract participants who value the financial benefits and flexibility on offer.

"The figures demonstrate the continued popularity and value of share schemes. This year the trends remain strong despite a slight decline in the number of employees receiving shares or granted options, indicating the sensitivity of the figures which can be heavily impacted by scheme changes made by a few big employers.

"The stock market growth over the past year means it is likely many employees will have benefitted financially from their holdings, especially pleasing in the low interest-rate environment.

"We are hopeful that employers not operating these schemes will see their worth, so that more employees are given the chance to gain a stake in their company and share in the wealth they help to create."

Save-as-you-earn (Saye) schemes provided the greatest option benefit to employees with 400,000 granted share options by the 510 companies that operate this sort of scheme.

The initial value of shares granted in 2016 to 2017 totalled £1.99bn with each participating employee holding shares initially worth £5,010.

Enterprise management incentive schemes (EMI), which allow companies to reward selected employees, saw strong growth through the 2016 to 2017 tax year.

The number of companies operating these schemes rose from 8,610 to 9,890 with the initial value of shares reaching £500m, up from £380m the previous tax year, granting options to 27,000 employees.

Martin Bamford, chartered financial planner and accredited later life adviser at Surrey-based Informed Choice, said: "Businesses are increasingly moving towards models where employee ownership is a factor.

"There are lots of examples to suggest that share schemes and other forms of employee ownership really help to improve engagement, resulting in staff satisfaction and higher profitability.

"Employees are motivated by more than simply money, but having a stake in your employer is a good way to shift attitudes away from simply showing up for work each day because you have to."