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Robert Oakeshott Memorial Lecture 2013 - a timely call to promote employee ownership from the Deputy Prime Minister

The inaugural Robert Oakeshott Memorial Lecture was given on 27 March 2013 by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at The Law Society, London.  He took the opportunity to outline the progress the The inaugural Robert Oakeshott Memorial Lecture was given on 27 March 2013 by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at The Law Society, London.  He took the opportunity to outline the progress the Government has made on employee ownership since the Nuttall Review was published, including support for the proposed Institute for Mutual and Employee Ownership. In particular, he called on companies in the employee ownership sector and professionals to join with the Government in promoting the employee ownership business model. The first anniversary of the publication of the Nuttall Review, 4 July 2013, will be the UK's first Employee Ownership Day and this provides an early opportunity to respond to this call.

The Deputy Prime Minister paid tribute to Robert Oakeshott, as “the champion of employee ownership”, explaining that “Robert lived by his principles; principles of justice, fairness and participation. An extraordinary and colourful character, everyone who knew him seemed to be struck by his irrepressible and infectious energy”.

Key points from Nick Clegg’s speech included:

  1. his personal interest in employee ownership and how this business model helps achieve both his personal goals, of laying the foundations for a stronger economy and a fairer society;

  2. welcoming the aim of the Employee Ownership Association (“EOA”) to grow employee ownership from 3% to 10% of UK GDP by 2020 and the recent progress made, with an EOA Impact Report revealing there has been a 10% growth in the number of employee owned businesses in the past year and that the Cabinet Office is currently tracking over 100 fledgling public service mutuals;

  3. setting out evidence to support the case for employee ownership such as how public service mutuals have decreased their absenteeism by an average 20% since spin-out and each and every John Lewis Partnership employee will this year receive a 17% bonus;

  4. emphasizing the message that employee ownership works at various stages in the life cycle of a business; and

  5. confirming the Government’s continuing commitment to promoting employee ownership through simplifying mechanisms, incentivising behaviours and promoting the case for employee ownership.


 

All these messages are consistent with the aims and agenda of the Nuttall Review. In particular, the Government is:

*  providing £50m each year from April 2014 to encourage and incentivise businesses and employees to adopt employee owned models including a new capital gains tax relief for those who sell a controlling stake in a company to their employees. In keeping with the call to professionals to help promote employee ownership, the Deputy Prime Minister explained that this relief will be vital in raising awareness amongst business advisers, lawyers and accountants, who until now have too often ignored this option;

*  publishing a consultation on further incentives;

*  progressing the Nuttall Review idea of "Employee Ownership in a Box" - a package of legal, tax and regulatory information on how to become employee owned;

*  creating and growing new public service mutuals; and

*  welcoming progress on the Institute for Mutual and Employee Ownership, a one stop shop for companies and their advisers who are either considering or have already made the transition to mutual, co-operative  or employee ownership.

Institute for Mutual and Employee Ownership

The Deputy Prime Minister set out how the Institute would be an organisation with a broad cross-sector reach, representing and promoting employee, mutual and co-operative ownership:

  1. providing focus, raising awareness and supporting the growth of this sector of the economy;

  2. prioritising implementation of Nuttall Review recommendations;

  3. building up a base of research, collecting data;

  4. providing a range of standardised organisational models - including the proposed “employee ownership in a box”; and

  5. licensing of higher education and training courses and accreditation of individuals.


 

But a key theme of the Deputy Prime Minister's Robert Oakeshott Memorial Lecture remained the call to others, as well as the Government, to encourage employee ownership through asking:

"those companies who have already embraced employee ownership spreading the word and helping those in transition; those who have not yet considered it to open themselves to the possibility – to look, seriously at what greater employee engagement can do for you; and the professional bodies - the lawyers and accountants - to understand this model so that they can advise clients on the benefits".

The Deputy Prime Minister concluded by hoping that Robert “would feel proud that we are taking positive steps to build on his legacy for the benefit of more employees. To create a fairer society which distributes its rewards. To create a stronger economy which is diverse and sustainable.  A stronger economy shared by all.”

Anyone interested in knowing more about Employee Ownership Day  and what they can do to promote employee ownership should contact the Employee Ownership Association (sam.dowling@employeeownership.co.uk) or email the Department for Business Innovation & Skills using the employee ownership e-mail mailbox employeeownership@bis.gsi.gov.uk.

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