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I am being dismissed — will I lose all my share options?

Share options are frequently the single most important financial element in a severance package.

There has been a general industry trend towards using share-based incentives rather than cash bonuses to ensure that employee performance aligns with shareholder interests.

Whether or not you lose your share options can depend, in part, on the reason for your dismissal. First, find out which type of arrangement you have in place, as there are many different schemes such as company share option plans, enterprise management incentives, save as you earn schemes and long-term incentive plans.

Most schemes contain broadly similar terms in relation to what happens when an employee leaves; and frequently, a distinction is made between “vested” and “unvested” options.

Exiting employees usually have a brief window of a few weeks or months in which to exercise vested share options, for example where the vesting date has passed on options earned due to the employee achieving certain performance targets or completing a certain length of service.

The bigger challenge is in dealing with unvested share options which are often stated to “lapse” and fall away if the employee leaves.

The reason for the dismissal will usually be important with schemes distinguishing between good leavers and bad leavers. For instance, employees leaving due to redundancy or retirement will normally be considered good leavers and may benefit from accelerated or partial vesting of unvested options.

By contrast, employees who leave of their own volition, or who are dismissed for gross misconduct, may find all their options are lost — including any that have already vested.

Integrated into most schemes is the right of the business to override the provisions of the scheme. This power is often reserved to the company’s remuneration committee. Persuading the company to exercise any discretion in your favour is usually the key to successfully negotiating a settlement.

If you are unfairly dismissed you may be able to claim the value of your options, subject to any cap, as part of that claim even if your share plan documents say that you waive all such rights. This is because employees are required to receive independent legal advice before they can be said to have given up certain employment rights.

If you do seek legal advice, make sure your employment solicitor has experience in dealing with issues relating to share options specifically, since this is a complex area.

David Greenhalgh is a partner at Joelson Wilson, a law firm

The 3D shape of things to come?

There has been a great deal of hype around 3D printing in the last few months but how would this technology actually benefit my business?

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is proving hugely beneficial in helping a vast range of businesses to change the way they design, prototype and manufacture products.

Traditionally, manufacturing goes to areas of the world where costs are low, particularly in terms of manual labour. Because of high set-up costs, you need to manufacture high numbers of products to make it cost effective, and then these need to be shipped across the world and stored. The end result being that you hope people buy the product. A lot of work is put in to predict consumers’ buying habits and what will sell.

With 3D printing, you can in theory create products on demand. You take raw materials and print a product from scratch, in one piece, making manufacturing a much quicker process from start to finish. By printing the product in one piece and in one place you are not only reducing the number of suppliers you need to use, and removing many of the costs and delays associated with a global supply chain, but you are also left with a better quality, more robust product.

Because you are creating and printing something “from scratch”, you are also cutting the cost of wasted materials normally associated with traditional (subtractive) manufacturing where you effectively start with a block of material and cut away at it to form the shape you want.

For retail businesses this ability to print on-demand can be harnessed to offer personalisation and customisation for the customer, whether it is shoes, headphones, or even an engagement ring (there is a jeweller in Birmingham already 3D printing customised 18-carat gold products).

As 3D printing reduces the time taken to create products as well as cutting traditional prototyping costs, it enables a range of business challenges to be addressed, saving both time and resources and ultimately boosting efficiency.

Pete Baxter is vice-president and head of Autodesk UK

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