The Financial Times reported, on Friday, that record numbers of UK businesses are adopting the model of employee ownership, matching levels in the US and surpassing their peers in most European countries.
The total number of employee-owned businesses in the UK rose by 10% in the past 12 months, with 2.6m Britons now working in them, second only to France, where 4m people are employee owners.
Former public sector teams are setting up as private companies – with care homes, for instance. Employee ownership is also popular among professional services firms, such as the design business Arup and Make, the architectural practice created by Ken Shuttleworth.
Employee-owned, Sheffield-based manufacturer Gripple
Gripple is a £45m turnover business with 450 employees, whose patented wire joiners are used by Porsche and in London’s Olympic Park, became fully employee-owned four years ago. Its founder, Hugh Facey, has put half of his stake in the business into the employee ownership trust, and each employee must now buy at least £1,000 of Gripple shares upon joining, although many own far more. Ian Farquhar, the managing director explained: “This is not about protecting family control or being generous to employees – it is a sound business model to follow. I have a superb workforce who are energised about taking the business forward.”
Gripple hosted an open day to support the Government and Employment Ownership Association’s joint (EOA) initiative, National Employee Ownership Day. People from employee owned companies attended, representing companies such as John Lewis, Swann Morton, Abacus Design Associates, School Trends, City Health Care Partnership, Walker Morris, Spectrum Community Health, Sheffield Hallam University, TransaveUK, Co-ownership Solutions, Wrigleys and Wicker Pharmacy.
Companies which have not yet embraced the model are also invited to The Old West Gun Works where they can learn and understand face to face its proven benefits.
Despite its increasing popularity, employee ownership is still a relatively unknown concept in the UK, amounting to only 5% of all companies, according to data compiled by the Employee Ownership Association. Iain Hasdell, EOA chief executive is launching a campaign to double the proportion of UK businesses that are employee-owned by 2020.
He noted that the largest 50 employee-owned companies in the UK – with a combined turnover of £20.5bn last year – increased their productivity by an average of 4.5% last year on the back of a 25.5% average increase in operating profit. 38 of the 50 had no debt.