If It’s Buy-In You Want: Forget the Shares-for-Rights Scheme

M. Holland [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5) or CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsSo this Government wants people to feel invested in the companies that they work for. To do this Osborne announced plans at Tory Party Conference that employees should have shares in their company, anything from £2,000 to £50,000. What does he ask for in return? Only that they give up a few more of their precious employment rights.

The plans, for anyone that missed them, are that in exchange for the shares, you will:


  • Lose protection from unfair dismissal and redundancy
  • Lose the right to request flexible working
  • No longer be able to get time off for training
  • Have to give 16 weeks’ notice rather than 8 if you are a mother returning from maternity leave.

And that’s on top of the changes to unfair dismissal and tribunals that have already been adopted on the recommendation of Beecroft.


It’s no surprise that a Tory Government would try to undermine employment rights wherever possible. The great con here though is the ‘bribe’ being offered; shares to encourage a sense of ownership, a morale boosting buy-in for the workforce. Most would agree that employee involvement in their workplaces is something that should be encouraged, and in the best workplaces this is achieved through consultation and negotiation between companies and unions. That is the point that Osborne appears to have missed, in many companies, and not just unionised ones, the stated aims of this proposal are already being achieved without requiring any loss of employment rights.


If you want to reward employees for the success of their business, just look at the numerous shares schemes offered by companies as a form of savings and profit sharing.


If it’s motivational buy-in you want, look at the Partnership model that operates between Usdaw and Tesco. Lay reps and union officials have access to all briefings that managers see, sit down to discuss issues with management alongside their colleagues in store forums, and discuss the company’s policy at a national forum made up of senior management and reps from across the country.


Of course, if it’s actual ownership you want, they you just have to look at the co-operative model, giving true democratic ownership of companies to their employees.


Each of these models achieves the Chancellor’s stated aims of tying employees closer to their companies, motivating them and rewarding them for their companies’ success. However, what none of these models do is surrender employment rights.


Let’s not forget how valuable employment rights really are. While everything is going well, and your shares increase in value, you possibly might not notice your lack of rights. But what if your company gets into trouble, the value of your shares plummets and they start looking at redundancies? What if you join a company as a young person with no commitments and see the shares as an attractive option. Only later when you decide you might want to have a family does the right to request flexible working suddenly take on new importance, but by then it’s too late.


Osborne’s proposals are a thinly veiled attempt to further erode employment rights on ideological grounds. There is no logical connection between the two parts of the proposal. Being a well protected worker and being a motivated worker are not mutually exclusive. Any suggestion otherwise is simply another nasty and divisive ploy on the part of this Government.


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One Response to “If It’s Buy-In You Want: Forget the Shares-for-Rights Scheme”

  1. [...] contributors have written time and time again on how damaging this proposal would be. It’s about the creation of two [...]

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