Share Options

The potential pitfalls of referring to employee share option plans in employment offers and contracts and how to do so safely

What are employee share option plans and why would you implement them?

Employee share options provide employees with rights to acquire shares in a company (usually the employing company or a member of the same group) at a pre-agreed fixed price (often called the exercise price or strike price) in the future. Normally, the exercise price is the market value of the shares at the time the option is granted.

For example, an employee could be granted an option to buy 100 shares at a price of £1.00 per share.

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What are unapproved / non-tax advantaged share option schemes and how are they used?

An unapproved share option scheme (which is now increasingly referred to as a non-tax advantaged share option scheme) provides the right, but not obligation to acquire a given number of shares from a company at a future date for a fixed price.

For the purposes of this article, we will continue to refer to these schemes as “unapproved” schemes because this is how many people still refer to them. Many industrial professionals, however, have adopted the term “non-tax advantaged” in place of “unapproved”.

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