Caitlin Prowle 16th May 2019 Blog Share Tweet This week, leading retailer Richer Sounds joined around 350 other UK businesses in becoming employee-owned. Founder Julian Richer announced the transfer of control and 60% of the company’s shares to its employees to “thank loyal, hardworking colleagues”, with the average worker set to receive £8,000. Richer’s actions bring us one step closer to an economy where everyone gets a say, a stake and a real reward. Where, whether you’re the cleaner or the CEO, you get a voice in how that business is run. Where instead of falling wages, insecure work and an uncertain future, employees are offered power, profit share and choice. Democratic ownership brings power closer to those most affected by it. In employee owned businesses, workers are the ones making the most important decisions. Employees have a real stake in the profits they work so hard to secure. And it means that ordinary people, rather than that 1%, are in control. But companies owned by their employees aren’t just better for the workers, they’re also better for the economy as a whole. Employee-owned companies are likely to be more efficient and productive, with higher levels of job stability than the standard top-down models. They are more innovative, more responsive to economic change and more likely to survive in times of economic turbulence. And our employee-owned businesses are thriving, now contributing £30 billion to GDP. It’s clear that employee-ownership offers a radical alternative to the tired, broken economic status quo. But we shouldn’t have to rely on the few responsible big business owners like Julian Richer – workers themselves need the right tools to lead this shift to a new economy. Elsewhere in Europe, governments are offering real tangible support to employees looking to own their businesses. For example, Spain’s Pagio Unico law sees state unemployment benefits offered up-front to newly unemployed private sector workers, allowing them to buy their firms and keep their jobs. Too often here in the UK, businesses go bust before workers even know it’s happening. New legislation should offer early warning when businesses fail, giving employees the opportunity to plan a shift to an employee-ownership model. Employees also need to be empowered and educated about these alternative models of ownership. Organisations like Co-operative Development Scotland and the Wales Co-operative Centre are already providing support and advice to employees wanting to transfer ownership. This should be available to all workers, and a new Co-operative Development Agency should be tasked with putting this into practice nationally. Employee-owned Richer Sounds shows that it’s good business to give workers a stake and a say. It’s time now to take the next steps towards a new mainstream – a new economy that works for everyone.