Ambitious for a Decade of Employee Ownership

Employee ownership is not new. In fact it is a proven model of business where employees have both a voice in how the business is run through direct engagement and a stake in its success.

Employee ownership can be found in a diverse range of sectors across the UK, from manufacturing to retail, engineering to healthcare and consultancy to publishing. We are all familiar with successful companies such as Unipart Group, Mott MacDonald, John Lewis Partnership, Arup, and CH2MHill, but there are many more that have placed a controlling part of the business in the hands of their employees.

It is now over a year since my predecessor, Norman Lamb, asked Graeme Nuttall, one of the foremost experts on employee ownership to undertake an independent review. His report, published on 4 July 2012, concluded that the benefits of employee ownership were clear. Not only does the business model foster greater employee commitment, but it reduces absenteeism, staff turnover and accidents in the workplace, leads to higher business productivity and profitability, and can give a business greater resilience through times of economic difficulty.

Over the past year we have started working with partners to create a better climate in which employee ownership can grow and flourish. In March the Deputy Prime Minister spoke at the Robert Oakeshott Memorial Lecture. He reiterated the Government’s 2013 budget commitment to provide £50m each year from next April to encourage and incentivise businesses and employees to adopt Employee Owned models.

The support of the EOA in making this happen has been invaluable. I have been hugely impressed not just with their work to raise awareness of employee ownership but also its day to day work helping businesses that wish to become employee owned to do so. To mark the end of this year, we are organising the first-ever national Employee Ownership Day on 4th July during Co-operatives Fortnight.

At the Employee Ownership Conference in London attendees will hear about the progress being made to simplify employee ownership, for example through the publication of new guidance and model documentation. The new guidance will include the EOA’s helpful “How to get started” guide, sponsored by the inspirational team at Gripple Ltd, and BIS guidance employees that has been developed with Acas. It will also be an opportunity to highlight the pioneering approach to public service delivery that the Cabinet Office is leading on through public service mutuals.

We will be holding a series of events up and down the country in direct response to the need to raise awareness.

I am also delighted to hear that businesses with employee ownership from Sheffield toLincolnwill be throwing open their doors and showcasing local communities that this business model can work for them.

One year on from the publication of the Nuttall Review and much has been achieved. I have personally enjoyed hearing first-hand the benefits that employee ownership can bring and the broad-based support it has amongst many diverse stakeholder groups. I look forward to visiting Arup and hearing about the experiences of some of their 11,000 employees on Employee Ownership Day.

I encourage everyone who has seen the benefits of employee ownership to speak up. There has never been a more important time to create a stronger economy and a fairer society. Those who are already “in the know” now have an opportunity to spread the word and to support others to make the journey that they have made. At the Robert Oakeshott Memorial Lecture in March the EOA published new research revealing that there has been a 10% growth in the number of employee owned businesses in the past year. My ambition is to work with others to deliver a decade of employee ownership.