Structures – creating the legal vehicle for your co-operative

This section gives an overview of when you will need to consider 'incorporating' to make your co-operative a legal entity.

If your co-operative will be entering into significant contracts (such as employment contracts), undertaking significant trade or need to own significant assets, then it will almost certainly need to incorporate – create a legal form that is separate to its members. There are numerous legal forms available in the UK and many of them are used by co-operatives.

Your choice of legal form will depend on many factors, including:

  • How you will be financed
  • What you are actually doing – your trade
  • What type of co-operative model you choose
  • Your business model
  • Your ownership of assets
  • What you intend to do if you wind up the co-operative

As the choice is so dependent on other factors, it is worth delaying this choice until you have a very strong idea of what they are. The earlier stages in the start-up journey should provide you with the answers.

Co-operatives in the UK are commonly set up with the following legal forms:

Less commonly, co-operatives are set up using:

Choosing the most appropriate legal form is something that The Hive can help with. It's not an easy choice, mainly because there are so many variables and so much choice.

See the following relevant sections for additional information and useful downloads

Updated: 15/02/2017