How can the growth of employee ownership be supported?

A national inquiry is being carried out to assess the size and impact of the sector, and to find ways to help it grow

The Ownership Effect inquiry – a national inquiry into the effects of employee ownership on the UK economy – is calling for written evidence from individuals and businesses to determine how best to support the growth of employee ownership.

Led by the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) in partnership with the eaga Trust and the John Lewis Partnership, the inquiry is investigating the growing size of the sector and the impact of its productivity and corporate governance record.

Over the summer, the inquiry is leading a series of seven panel hearings where an independent, business-led panel of experts from business, finance, law, accounting and management, who are not currently close to employee ownership, are receiving oral and written evidence from groups representing SMEs, family businesses, businesses directors and regional economies demonstrating the economic opportunity of employee ownership.

Four hearings have taken place so far in London, Edinburgh and Manchester, with three further hearings scheduled in Wales, Birmingham and London.

Related: Is employee ownership the business model of the future?

For Deb Oxley, chief executive of the EOA, these regional hearings have “started to uncover the economic opportunity of employee ownership in developing the UK’s regional economies”.

“We heard time and again how employee ownership is helping to root jobs in the local economy; how it helps regional businesses to prosper; how it is supporting greater regional social mobility through is fairer distribution of wealth; how it is delivering positive impact to local communities; and how it is a catalyst for enterprise and innovation,” she said.

The inquiry hopes that written submissions will build on the success of these hearings, and will feed into a comprehensive final report to be published this autumn, which will include recommendations of how to support the growth of employee ownership.

“As each stage of the inquiry progresses, we continue to uncover more evidence on the potential of employee ownership to answer some of the UK’s burning challenges; the even distribution of wealth, closing the productivity gap, and growing the nation’s SMEs and independently owned business community,” added Ms Oxley.

“In order to create a solid body of evidence about under what circumstances employee ownership is found and what benefits it delivers, we need to capture the insights, stories and accounts of employee ownership from the existing employee owned businesses and employee owners of all sizes and in all sectors.”

Recent evidence released by the EOA on the top 50 employee owned businesses revealed combined sales of £22.7bn, while additional research from the Universities of Durham and Leeds has shown the sector grew 60% between 2010-2017 and now has 200,000 employees across 300+ businesses, with almost 70% those being in either professional services or manufacturing.