A Trade: Shares for Rights?

UK online newspapers and blogs are buzzing with the proposal outlined by George Osborne, a British Conservative politician and Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the Tory conference yesterday: in exchange for shares given by their employer, newly hired employees would have to give up certain employment rights (see here for The Guardian article). Under this program, employees would be able to waive certain rights with regard to unfair dismissal, redundancy, flexible work time and receive rights of ownership. This employment-ownership scheme would see a large deregulation of the labour market and encourage start-up companies that are concerned with all the protection currently offered to employees. 

Coming from a perspective in which minimal labour standards laws are of public order and meant for the protection of every employee, this proposal is quite shocking, to say the least. Should employees be allowed to contract out on an individual basis of basic employment protection in exchange for essentially the chance to make a profit?


  1. David Collier-Brown

    If I was getting a significant share (say, £50,000) of a small company or partnership, I might well sign off on discarding selected rights in favour of having a vote on the board.

    Here, however, someone’s offering as little as £2,000, which is far too small to have a meaningful number of shares to vote. And in a start-up, those shares are going to be diluted pretty quickly…

    I’d be inclined to treat it like making partner in a smallish firm: you do give up some things when you become part of a partnership instead of an employee. To throw them away for a pittance, however, would be silly.