In the current labour market, retaining key employees is becoming increasingly important. Simple cash bonuses may help retain your key staff, but you could also consider offering equity stakes in your business.
One option is a straight gift of shares in the company, although as a business owner you may not want to give away large chunks of your share capital.
An alternative could be a gift of share options or different types of share capital, such as growth shares.
Share options grant the employee the opportunity to purchase shares at a set point in the future for a set price. If the options are structured properly, for example under an Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) scheme, there could be tax benefits for both the company and the employee.
A growth share or an EMI scheme is often set up to provide key employees with an interest in the success of the business and commonly only vest (i.e. become exercisable) in the event of a third party sale. They can be a tax efficient way to retain key employees while you are working towards an exit from the business, among other goals.
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