Types of Employee Share Plan

The main types of Employee Share Plan are summarised below.  Please see our Fact Sheets for more details about individual plans.

Discretionary and Executive Share Plans

The advantage of discretionary plans is that companies have the flexibility to choose the main design features, which individuals will participate and the size of awards granted to each.

Share Options (or Stock Options)

  • Unapproved Share Options
  • Company Share Option Plan (CSOP)
  • Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI)
  • Nil-Cost and Nominal-Cost Options
  • Phantom Options and Share Appreciation Rights (SARs)

Share Awards

  • Performance Share Plans/LTIPs
  • Deferred Bonuses
  • Restricted Shares


  • Joint Share Ownership Plans (JSOPs)
  • Growth Shares
  • Nil and Partly-Paid Shares

All-Employee Share Plans

The main types of All-Employee Share Plans operated in the UK are:

  • Share Incentive Plans (SIPs)
  • SAYE or Sharesave Share Option Schemes

Employee Benefit Trusts

EBTs are discretionary trusts set up for the benefit of employees.  They are frequently operated in conjunction with share plans:

  • To provide an internal market for shares in a private company
  • As a ‘warehouse’, to hold surplus shares which can be gradually passed on to employees through share plans
  • To deliver existing shares, bought on the market, as part of a share plan as an alternative to issuing new shares

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