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Alternative ownership forms and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic heritage employees in employee-owned firms

Employee ownership (EO) of firms is an exciting development for ethical business, as EO spreads rapidly across the UK.

Practitioner literature asserts that the transition to EO leads to improved employee voice and participation, better employment conditions, and a more positive experience of work overall. But research also suggests that not all employees benefit in the same ways or to the same extent from this change of ownership. This project aims to explore the experience of work within EO firms of minority ethnic heritage employees.

This is an opportunity for doctoral researchers to participate in a fascinating new field with implications for decent work, equality, and community. With interest in EO being particularly strong, both in Westminster and the devolved governments, it is expected that the project’s findings will be presented to organisations with an interest in alternative ownership forms, such as the Employee Ownership Association, Cwmpas, the Development Bank of Wales, and private-sector practitioners. This will position the student well in developing personal networks, immersing themselves in the EO environment, and identifying internship opportunities.


Employee ownership (EO) is growing rapidly in the UK following the Finance Act 2014, which grants incentives to firms in which at least 50% of shares are held collectively in trust for all employees.

Champions of EO assert that the change of ownership, accompanied by forums for employee voice and participation, lead to improved employment conditions and experience of work. However, research suggests that not all employees benefit in the same ways or to the same extent from this change. First, there is evidence to suggest that existing hierarchies and power structures are not challenged by the transition. Second, where such structures remain unchallenged, the potential remains for discrimination against employees known to encounter discrimination in other workplace contexts. There is little research, however, that specifically explores employees' experiences of employment within EO organisations.

Aims and research questions

This project will investigate the experience of work of minority ethnic heritage employees, to ask: does employee ownership reduce inequality and (racial) discrimination that might be faced by employees of minority ethnic heritage and if so, what are the characteristics of EO firms that explain this reduction?

Findings from this project will improve our understanding of equality, diversity and inclusion in theory and in practice, and specifically how this impacts minority ethnic heritage employees at an individual level. More generally, findings will increase understanding of how practices within EO firms improve equality and inclusion, and the extent to which this has a differential impact on various employee groups.


First, workplace practices and procedures which commonly lead to discrimination will be identified from existing research. Second, the existence of such practices and procedures in EO organisations will be explored, along with examining the extent of EDI awareness and level of prioritisation that discrimination is afforded in these workplaces, and the practices that aim to prevent it. Third, the research will evaluate the experience of employees of minority ethnic heritage in relation to the practices, procedures and intentions identified.

Comparing across cases, 6 organisations in diverse sectors will be chosen, which have transitioned to EO no less than 5 years ago. Interviews will be held with managers, HR staff, employees involved in EO structures such as employee councils, and employees of minority ethnic heritage.

Based on insights from these organisations, you’ll develop proposals for good practices relevant to employment relations and organisational governance, potentially including policy recommendations and training tools. Thus, by understanding the factors that enhance or undermine EDI, the research will propose more effective means by which EO firms can fulfil the potential inherent in this ownership structure, while positioning EDI as a key element of ‘good jobs’.


The successful candidate will be supervised by researchers in Cardiff Business School and School of Social Sciences – both of which offer a rich research environment including the Employment Research Unit and the Cardiff Organisational Research Group, as well as the Work, Employment and Labour Markets, and the Migration, Ethnicity, Race and Diversity research groups. The Business School also has a Race Equality Group with close links to Welsh Government, enabling collaboration with external stakeholders while the School of Social Sciences collaborates with local race relations groups.

Supervisory team

Picture of Jonathan Preminger

Dr Jonathan Preminger

Senior Lecturer in Management, Employment and Organisation

+44 29208 74000 ext 77243