The total value of shares and options awarded to employees under tax-advantaged (approved) share schemes increased by 21% in 2013-14 to around £3.45 billion, according to the latest HM Treasury figures. However, most of this increase is due to large year-on-year fluctuations in the free shares awarded by some of the large share incentive plans; last year was a ‘good year’. The total cost of income tax and national insurance relief on all four of the approved schemes in 2013-14 was £1,060 million, 26% up on the previous year largely due to the same fluctuations. The number of companies operating approved employee share schemes continues to grow, and stood at 11,460 in 2013-14.
Campaigning body, ifs ProShare, welcomes this growth; its head Gabbi Stopp commenting:
‘These figures are extremely encouraging for the employee share ownership industry and show the very real affect that positive policy change can have, when decision makers listen to voices working within the industry.’
However, at an industry conference earlier this autumn, she also warned against complacency, adding that there is much to be done to bring employee share ownership to a wider audience. Measures to extend the appeal include the further simplification of employee share plans, the removal of barriers to participation among employees and the embracing of technology to foster employee share ownership.
‘As an industry we must now look at how we can further widen access to the benefits of employee share ownership so that everyone can benefit, be it from supporting financial education in the workplace, to progressing our cause in Parliament.’