Employee Share Schemes

Quick Insights: Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI)

Series 3: Choosing the Right Scheme for You

Discover the various employee share schemes available for startups, including EMI, CSOPs, SIPs, SAYE, and non-approved schemes, to effectively incentivise and retain talent.


Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) are one of the most advantageous employee share schemes for UK startups. In this Quick Insight, we’ll delve into what EMIs are, their benefits, and why they might be the right choice for your company.

What are EMIs?

Overview of EMI

EMI schemes are designed to help startups attract and retain key talent by offering tax-advantaged share options. These options give employees the right to buy shares at a future date at a price set when the options are granted, usually the current market value. This aligns employees’ interests with the long-term success of your startup.

👉 Keep track of your equity distribution with our downloadable Cap Table template!

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an EMI scheme, your startup must meet specific criteria, such as having gross assets of £30 million or less and fewer than 250 full-time employees. Additionally, your company must carry out a qualifying trade, and the options must be granted to employees who work at least 25 hours per week or 75% of their working time for the company.

Benefits of EMI for Startups

Tax Advantages

EMI schemes offer significant tax benefits for both employers and employees. Employees typically pay no income tax or National Insurance on the grant or exercise of EMI options, provided the exercise price is at least the market value at the time of grant. Instead, they will pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on any gain made when they sell the shares, often at a reduced rate of 10% due to Entrepreneurs’ Relief.

Attraction and Retention

Offering EMIs can be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining top talent in your startup. By giving employees a stake in the company’s future success, you can boost motivation and loyalty, which are essential for a startup’s growth and sustainability.


EMI schemes are highly flexible, allowing startups to tailor the scheme to fit their specific needs. You can set performance conditions that employees must meet to exercise their options, ensuring that the scheme aligns with your business goals and growth targets.

Setting Up an EMI Scheme

Key Steps

Setting up an EMI scheme involves several key steps. These include valuing your startup’s shares, drafting an option agreement, and notifying HMRC within 92 days of granting the options. Seeking professional advice from the experts (hey, that’s us!) is advisable to ensure compliance with the regulations and to maximise the benefits of the scheme.

Communication and Education

Once the scheme is set up, it’s crucial to communicate its benefits clearly to your employees. Make sure they understand how the scheme works, the tax implications, and how it can benefit them in the long run. This transparency can help in gaining their trust and commitment.

By leveraging an EMI scheme, your startup can offer attractive incentives to employees, fostering loyalty and driving growth.

Next, we’ll explore “Company Share Option Plans (CSOPs) & Share Incentive Plans (SIPs),” comparing these options and their suitability for startups. Stay tuned!

Considering your employee share scheme options? We’re here to help you untangle the specifics. With expertise in financial strategy and a track record of supporting startups, our friendly UK team can provide you with the insights you need to make informed decisions. Book your free, no-obligation chat today!

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