Employee-owned businesses are more trusted, new survey finds

More than half of those quizzed by YouGov think the UK would be better off if there were more worker-owned companies

A new survey from YouGov reveals that nearly 60% of people in the UK see employee-owned (EO) businesses as more trustworthy than those not owned by their employees.

The survey, commissioned by the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) with support from Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), evaluated the UK’s perception of trust and ethical practices in business.

It follows fierce debate over issues of corporate governance and employee representation on boards, with the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices released in July and proposed government reforms this month both meeting a mixed response.

The research revealed that 58% of respondents think employee-owned businesses are more trustworthy than non-employee-owned businesses, at a time when trust in UK businesses and institutions is at an all-time low. Data in the Edelman Trust Survey 2017 found levels of trust in business are at a record low of 33% for businesses and 29% for institutions.

The employee ownership model is designed to give every worker a voice and meaningful stake in the business. Research continues to show that employee-owned businesses have higher levels of productivity and profitability in comparison to their non EO counterparts, the result of higher levels of employee engagement.

The YouGov survey also found that:

  • 53% believe it would be better for the UK economy if there were more employee-owned businesses
  • 44% are more likely to apply for a job at an employee-owned business
  • 41% are more likely to buy products or services from a business that is employee-owned.
Deb Oxley, CEO of the Employee Ownership Association

Deb Oxley, chief executive of the EOA, said: “This latest YouGov survey of the employee-owned business sector is another indicator of this sector’s importance to the long-term sustainability of the UK economy, adding to the large volume of data which evidences its contribution to business productivity, resilience and innovation.

“At a time when the UK faces economic uncertainty, the opportunity for businesses that are driven by the collective effort and passion of their employee owners could not be any more relevant.”

Co-operative Development Scotland director, Sarah Deas, added: “There has never been a better time to discuss the relevance of employee ownership and the benefits of this business model to both employers and employees. The characteristics of employee-owned businesses, such as profit sharing and personal development, also creates a working environment that resonates more with millennials.

“In order to raise levels of trust in UK business and institutions, we must look to the success of this sector and consider the wider benefits to the economy if more businesses were to become employee-owned.”

Findings from the Ownership Effect, a national inquiry into employee ownership that heard evidence from over 100 employee-owned businesses and advisors, will be published later in autumn.

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