Employers can design their own employee share schemes, but most prefer to make use of favourable tax treatment available through the four HMRC approved schemes: sharesave (SAYE), share incentive plan (Sip), company share option plan (Csop) and enterprise management incentive (EMI).

The most popular staff option scheme in the UK is the sharesave scheme, also known as save as you earn (SAYE). Executive share option plans (including long term incentives aka LTIPS) are used for very senior employees. It is very common for unapproved share option plans, such as LTIPS, to be used for executives or directors. They are called unapproved because they do not attract the tax breaks available to approved plans.

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