In this section we provide some basic information on worker co-ops – where the business is owned and controlled by those who know it best – the workers!
What are worker co-ops?
Worker co-operatives are trading enterprises, owned and run by the people who work in them, who have an equal say in what the business does, and an equitable share in the wealth created from the products and services they provide.
Worker co-operatives go further than giving workers a stake in the businesses they work in – the workers own the business. They are not given a share of the profits – the profits are theirs to distribute how they want.
Sometimes workers share ownership and control with other stakeholders, like the local community, or customers in a hybrid model.
How do worker co-ops operate?
In a worker co-op, the co-op is run for the benefit of the people who do the work.
These types of co-ops tend to have very flat structures and no hierarchy. Some – but not all – pay all the staff equally, no matter what their role. But this doesn’t have to be the case as the model is very flexible.
Many worker co-ops also encourage workers to have a number of different roles in the co-op, which means workers gain experience in a number of areas.
The workers are involved in decision making and how any surplus is shared out or reinvested in the business. How this works in practice depends on what the co-op has written in their rules.
Support for starting a worker co-op
Our Step by Step tool is a great free resource to help work your way through the steps of planning and starting a new co-op
Access tailored business support from Co-operatives UK, in partnership with The Co-operative Bank
If you're based in South Yorkshire, you can speak to a business advisor at the South Yorkshire Growth Hub as part of the Ownership Hub, a partnership between Co-operatives UK and the Employee Ownership Association