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Does an employee who is furloughed lose his/her benefits under an EMI share option?

One of the key legislative requirements of EMI is that the employee satisfies the working time requirement, which is that they work at least 25 hours per week in the company or, if less, 75% of the employee’s total working time. If the working time requirement ceases to be met, then there is a “disqualifying event”. That means that the tax benefits of EMI ceases. It may also mean that the option lapses, but that depends on the specific terms of the option.

An employee who has been furloughed is by definition no longer working 25 hours/week and therefore on the face of it, there is a disqualifying event. However, the Government has tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill currently going through Parliament providing in effect that time not worked because an employee has been furloughed counts as working time, both for determining whether the working time requirement is met initially and whether there is a disqualifying event. Provided this amendment is enacted, this should address the issue.