EOA congratulates Graeme Nuttall OBE as international award recognises him as employee ownership champion

The Employee Ownership Association congratulates Graeme Nuttall OBE on being recognised for his work championing employee ownership in the UK and internationally.

Graeme, partner at law firm Fieldfisher and head of its Employee Ownership Solutions practice, was the recipient of the 31st ‘Txemi Cantera’ International Social Economy Award, handed out by the ASLE – which is the business association of employee-owned and investee companies in the Basque Country.

The employee ownership trust (EOT) was introduced in the UK as a result of the 2012 Nuttall Review of Employee Ownership, produced by Graeme for the UK government as an independent adviser. He has since gone on to support the growth of employee ownership in the United States, Australia and Canada.

The award, which was received on Graeme’s behalf by one of his colleagues, acknowledges this contribution and advocacy towards the continued growth of employee ownership in the UK and abroad, with his work having been credited as influential by both the US National Centre for Employee Ownership and Employee Ownership Australia.

In a statement released by Fieldfisher, Graeme said: “Thank you very much to ASLE for awarding me the Txemi Cantera International Social Economy Prize. It is a big honour to be recognised for my contribution to upholding the values that define employee-owned companies, such as participation, democracy and solidarity, and for me to join the list of well-known people who have been honoured in this way.

“It is very important that employee ownership organisations around the world share ideas and good practice, so that we may learn from one another and build stronger, better ways of promoting and maintaining employee ownership. By awarding an international prize, ASLE celebrates this global co-operation.”

Employee Ownership Association (EOA) Chief Executive Deb Oxley OBE DL said: “I would like to congratulate Graeme for this richly deserved award on behalf of everyone at the EOA and all our members.

“Graeme’s championing of EO, and in particular the EOT, has helped to promote employee ownership both in the UK and across the world.

“We are lucky to have champions like Graeme and we are grateful for his support, advice and awareness raising relating to employee ownership, with his most recent contribution sharing his insight on EO governance at the EOA Annual Conference 2021, where he provided his expert insights during one of our 27 virtual learning sessions.”

Employee ownership advocacy showcased at EOA Annual Conference

Graeme was on hand on day two of the EOA event in mid-November where he spoke about the role and purpose of an EOT from a legal perspective in a session hosted by think-tank Ownership at Work

During the session, he discussed why Ownership at Work is researching the rules governing EOTs to see if they are sufficiently defined in law and practice, and whether there are any necessary or desirable changes.

He said that while EOT legislation was introduced by the Finance Act 2014, “it is essential to realise the EOT legislation does not provide a complete description of the trust model of employee ownership”.

He said: “It defines the EOT for tax purposes but leaves out important parts of the trust model, such as the overarching purpose of an EOT and the main ways in which the trustee is expected to benefit the EOTs beneficiaries.”

He also added that there are currently “no prescribed answers regarding an EOTs main purpose and the core tasks the trustees must undertake”.

Graeme went on to say that an EOTs main purpose is to “provide long-term employee ownership of a trading company”, and that the core tasks of an EOT trustee can thus be summarised as:

  • Safeguarding the EOT’s controlling interest in that trading company
  • Upholding employee engagement
  • Ensuring financial success is shared with employees
  • Ensuring good work is provided to employees

During a subsequent Q&A session, Graeme was asked to give his view on how important it is that the way in which reward is distributed is “fair and even across all beneficiaries” and whether that should always be the case.

“In terms of how rewards are distributed within a company, I think it is important to say that in some circumstances, special remuneration packages for key executives may well be justified, particularly during that difficult deferred consideration period, some people may be working flat-out in a quasi-entrepreneurial role and should be rewarded accordingly,” he replied.

“But fundamentally there needs to be a distribution of profits, I would say, on the same terms basis, as described in the EOT legislation, whether that’s the same amount or a percentage of earnings.

“I would say that should underpin, assuming any profits are available, every employee-owned company, it should be a distinguishing factor for any EO company.”

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