Revolutionising the Way Employees Own a Piece of the Pie: Exciting Changes to the Share Scheme

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For many businesses, ensuring employee retention and commitment is key to their success.  

Figures from HMRC, published in June 2023 shows half of the businesses which have established a share scheme did so to create a sense of ownership among their work force. Other common reasons included improving retention of employees, attracting skilled workers and improving the morale among the work force. These are all things that are central to a company’s growth prospects and ultimate success.   

Bearing this in mind, the government currently offers four tax-advantaged employee share schemes, giving tax relief on qualifying shares. This means that share ownership becomes significantly more attractive than it otherwise would be.    

The four schemes are  

  • Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI),  
  • Company Share Option Plans (CSOP),  
  • Share Incentive Plans (SIP) and  
  • Save As You Earn (SAYE).  

EMI and CSOP are what are known as discretionary schemes while SIP and SAYE are non-discretionary; this means they are designed for companies to offer tax-advantaged options or shares to all their employees.  

Now, the Treasury has announced a review of the SAYE and SIP and is putting a call out for interested parties to give evidence.  

This is aimed at improving the schemes and expanding their use by making it easier for businesses to set them up and offer them out to staff.  

HMRC figures show that 31% of businesses which are unaware of these schemes say they are too complicated to set up. Therefore, the proposed review will look at what could be done to simplify the schemes and encourage greater participation among low earners, who have previously been among the least likely to take part in such schemes.  

The review follows the success of recent reforms to the Company Share Option Plan, which doubled the employee share options limit from £30,000 to £60,000, removed the ‘worth having’ condition, limited which types of shares are eligible for inclusion within the scheme and made changes to the share options limit achievable through secondary rather than primary legislation. These changes came into effect from 6th April 2023  

What do the schemes do?  


  • Save As You Earn (SAYE): employees can buy discounted shares in their company if they save money each month for three to five years. 
  • Share Incentive Plan (SIP): companies can help their employees to purchase shares directly in their company or offer them as awards, tax free. 


How successful have the schemes been?  

HMRC figures, released in June 2023, show that more than eight out of ten businesses say these schemes helped them, with almost three quarters of these saying it has improved retention and recruitment of staff.   

In 2020-21, 380,000 employees were granted SAYE share options worth nearly £2.6bn in that year whilst employees participating in SIP schemes received shares worth £780m.