By Marcus Leach
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, has today (Monday) called for staff to have more of a say in how their employers are run — to create a 'John Lewis economy' in the UK.
Under proposals revealed by Mr Clegg at a City of London event today, employees would be given automatic rights to buy shares in the firms they work for — and encouraged to take a more active role in the way those companies are run.
“The people best-placed to look after the interests of staff are staff,” he said. “And that is what, so far, has been missing from this debate: ordinary people.”
Mr Clegg went on to outline the benefits of greater staff involvement.
"We need more individuals to have a real stake in their firms. More of a John Lewis economy, if you like,” he said.
"And what many people don't realise about employee ownership is that it is a hugely underused tool in unlocking growth.
"I don't value employee ownership because I believe it is somehow 'nicer' - a more pleasant alternative to the rest of the corporate world. Those are lazy stereotypes.
“Firms that have engaged employees, who own a chunk of their company, are just as dynamic, just as savvy, as their competitors.
"Firms that have engaged employees, who own a chunk of their company, are just as dynamic, just as savvy, as their competitors. In fact, they often perform better.
"Lower absenteeism. Less staff turnover. Lower production costs. In general, higher productivity and higher wages. They weathered the economic downturn better than other companies."
The move was part of a wider push towards "responsible capitalism", the deputy prime minister added. It follows the announcement of government plans to give shareholders more power to curb executive pay.
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