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Share Options

Share options are a great way to incentivise new employees to join your company, to reward and motivate those who stay and help it to grow, and for people to benefit if there is a successful exit. The prospect of share options can help your business stand out from the competition by offering more than just a good salary package for key members of your team.

A key benefit to founders is that they do not need to give away equity immediately, as usually employees must wait before they can exercise an option, for example until a period of time has elapsed or an event has occurred.

There are several types of share scheme available, and businesses will need to carefully consider the pros and cons of each in terms of meeting their long term objectives.

Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors can advise on:

  • EMI share options – one of the most popular options for SMEs;
  • company share option plans – these are discretionary tax-advantaged plans allowing a company to grant options to employees or directors;
  • share incentive plans – these plans give employees the chance to purchase shares in the employer which are held in trust for tax benefits;
  • unapproved share options – these are share option schemes which are not approved by HMRC and therefore do not carry the same tax benefits as the schemes above.

Our experienced company and commercial solicitors will help directors to evaluate the options and eligibility criteria, working with your accountant to consider the associated tax implications to select the best way forward.

Once a scheme has been chosen, it is vital that it is set up correctly, and you will be required to comply with mandatory legal requirements throughout its operation.

What is a share option?

A share option is a right to buy shares in the future, for a price which is fixed at the time the option is granted. Granting employees share options can offer them certain tax advantages.

When granting employees share options, in most cases you can specify when the option may be exercised. For example this may be after the employee has been employed for a certain period of time, or once they achieved set performance targets.

EMI share options

The Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) share option scheme is a HRMC tax advantaged scheme which allows companies to provide share options to employees. This share option scheme is extremely popular, given:

  • the tax advantages for both employees and employers; and
  • flexibility on structuring the scheme – employers can decide which employees will be part of the scheme, the price, and when options can be exercised.

There are several criteria to fulfil to participate in an EMI scheme, which businesses need to carefully consider. If eligible, it is vital that an EMI scheme is set up correctly and complies with mandatory legal requirements.

How we can help

We offer a full range of support with structuring, implementing, and managing share option schemes, and our services include:

Selecting the best scheme

  • initial advice to employers on setting up a new share option scheme; and
  • checking if your company qualifies for an EMI scheme.


  • identifying your objectives and planning the scheme accordingly;
  • liaising with your accountant on valuing your company’s shares and agreeing a value with HMRC;
  • reviewing and updating articles of association to ensure that share options can be granted; and
  • reviewing and updating shareholder agreements or obtaining consent from shareholders to ensure that share options can be granted.

Scheme set up

  • drafting scheme rules and share option agreements covering important provisions such as the option exercise price, conditions and when the option will lapse;
  • reporting EMI option grants to HMRC; and
  • advising you on communications with staff about option agreements and granting the options.

Ongoing compliance

  • preparing company documents, such as board minutes and resolutions pursuant to the scheme; and
  • advising you on HMRC compliance requirements.

Exercise of grant

  • advising and supporting you when employees exercise their options; and
  • helping you with queries around the exercise of options and avoiding pitfalls.

Winding up

  • advising you on what to do if an employee who is part of the schemes leaves your business; and
  • assisting you with ending the scheme in a compliant manner.

Why choose Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors? 

It is important that your share option scheme is tailored so that members are rewarded at the right time and that they understand the benefits and value of the options they are granted. We will provide strategic advice and support you with structuring your share option schemes effectively.

Our corporate solicitors in Milton Keynes have assisted a range of businesses with share option schemes, recent examples include:

  • advising on the implementation of an EMI scheme for a company within the construction industry; and
  • advising an individual on the exercise of his multi-million pound share options in a well-known financial company.

To make an appointment to see one of our corporate solicitors, Tim Roberts, Danielle Austin  or Gemma Gurney please call on 01908 692769 or send an email to legal@geoffreyleaver.com.

What our clients say:

“From my first meeting with Danielle through until completion of our job I felt entirely in knowledgeable and capable hands. I was always kept up-to-date with the progress and milestones we needed to take and Danielle was efficient and diligent in following up with all parties to ensure the process moved along smoothly. Danielle was always available to answer and clarify any queries I had. I’d be very happy to recommend Danielle and her team at Geoffrey Leaver and will of course take any future legal problems I may have directly to Danielle for her expertise.”
Brett Wilson

You may also like to read some of our most recent testimonials from our company commercial clients to find out what others think about our Company Commercial and Corporate Law services.

The Company Commercial Team

  • Tim Roberts Senior Partner
    Company Commercial 01908 689356
    Tim Roberts is Head of the Department and the firm’s Senior Partner. He began his career as a solicitor in the City of London before moving to Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors Company Commercial department. He has over 30 years of experience in Company Commercial and specialises in all aspects of the sale and purchase of companies and businesses, including management buy-outs, corporate restructuring, banking and corporate finance.


  • Danielle Austin Senior Associate Solicitor
    Company Commercial 01908 689399
    Danielle Austin is a Senior Associate Solicitor who is experienced in dealing with Company and Commercial matters.


  • Gemma Gurney Solicitor
    Company Commercial 01908 689373
    Gemma is the newest member of our Company Commercial team.  After graduating from the University of Lincoln with an LLB, Gemma completed her Legal Practice Course at Leicester Institute of Legal Practice


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