Employee Share Schemes

Employee-share-schemes are increasingly popular in Australia as companies look to incentivize their workforce, align interests between employees and shareholders, and retain top talent. This comprehensive guide explores the various types of employee-share-schemes, their benefits, the legal framework, and real-world case studies.

What are Employee Share Schemes?
"Employee share schemes" are programs that provide employees with an opportunity to acquire shares in the company they work for. These schemes are designed to foster a sense of ownership among employees, potentially leading to increased productivity and loyalty. There are several types of employee-share-schemes available in Australia, including:

  1. Employee Share Purchase Plans (ESPPs): These plans allow employees to purchase company shares, often at a discounted rate.
  2. Employee Option Plans: Employees receive options to buy shares at a future date at a predetermined price.
  3. Performance Rights Plans: Employees are granted shares based on the achievement of certain performance milestones.
  4. Restricted Stock Units (RSUs): Employees receive shares subject to certain restrictions, such as vesting periods.

Benefits of Employee Share Schemes

Employee-share-schemes offer numerous benefits to both employers and employees:

  • For Employers:
    • Talent Attraction and Retention: Companies can attract and retain talented employees by offering a stake in the company.
    • Enhanced Performance: Employees with a sense of ownership are often more motivated to contribute to the company’s success.
    • Alignment of Interests: Aligns the interests of employees and shareholders, fostering a cooperative work environment.
  • For Employees:
    • Financial Incentives: Employees can benefit financially from the company’s growth.
    • Sense of Ownership: Participation in employee-share-schemes can enhance employees’ commitment and loyalty.
    • Tax Advantages: Certain schemes offer tax benefits, making them an attractive option for employees.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

Employee share schemes

In Australia, employee-share-schemes are governed by the Corporations Act 2001 and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) regulations. Companies must comply with these regulations to ensure their schemes are legal and beneficial for all parties involved. Key considerations include:

  • Disclosure Requirements: Companies must provide detailed information about the scheme to employees.
  • Valuation and Pricing: Proper valuation methods must be used to determine the price of shares or options.
  • Taxation: Both employers and employees need to understand the tax implications of participating in employee-share-schemes.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: Atlassian

Atlassian, a leading Australian software company, has successfully implemented an employee-share-scheme to motivate and retain its workforce. The company’s employee-share-scheme includes options and RSUs, allowing employees to benefit from the company’s growth. Atlassian’s share price has seen significant growth, rewarding its employees handsomely.

Case Study 2: Canva

Canva, a graphic design platform, offers an employee-share-scheme to its employees, which has been instrumental in attracting top talent and maintaining a high level of employee engagement. Canva’s rapid growth and success have provided substantial financial rewards to participating employees.

Case Study 3: Xero

Xero, a cloud-based accounting software company, has leveraged employee-share-schemes to align employee interests with company goals. The company’s strong performance and growth trajectory have made its employee-share-scheme highly attractive, contributing to a motivated and loyal workforce.

Designing an Effective Employee Share Scheme

To design an effective employee-share-scheme, companies should consider the following steps:

  1. Define Objectives: Clearly outline the goals of the scheme, such as retention, motivation, or performance enhancement.
  2. Choose the Right Type of Scheme: Select the most suitable scheme based on company size, industry, and employee preferences.
  3. Set Clear Terms and Conditions: Ensure that the terms are transparent and understood by all participants.
  4. Communicate Effectively: Regularly communicate the benefits and details of the scheme to employees.
  5. Monitor and Adjust: Continuously assess the scheme’s effectiveness and make necessary adjustments.


Employee-share-schemes are powerful tools for companies in Australia to attract, retain, and motivate their workforce. By offering employees a stake in the company’s success, these schemes can lead to a more engaged and productive team. With careful planning and adherence to legal requirements, companies can design effective employee-share-schemes that benefit both the organization and its employees.

By implementing an employee-share-scheme, companies like Atlassian, Canva, and Xero have demonstrated the significant advantages these schemes can bring. As the business landscape continues to evolve, employee-share-schemes will remain a vital strategy for companies seeking to achieve long-term success.

If you’re considering implementing an employee-share-scheme in your company, it’s essential to consult with legal and financial experts to ensure compliance and optimize the benefits for both your company and your employees.

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