New UK legislation coming into force soon will require more disclosure of beneficial ownership, which is going to make it much more straightforward to identify the individuals behind corporations.
Meanwhile, the government’s plan for a publicly accessible register detailing foreign entities that own property in the UK aims to improve transparency over ownership.
This is a potentially important development for employers. Let’s say the major shareholder behind a corporate landlord is a high-profile trophy hunter. Someone with strong beliefs about animal welfare would perhaps not take a job with a business that is the tenant of that corporate landlord.
Wellbeing has become very important in the workplace, with employers seeking to create workspaces that have a positive impact on mental wellbeing, happiness and stress levels, to help them compete for and retain talent. But it goes further than that. Employees now look at the employer’s culture and corporate ethics. Do they have and follow an environmental policy? Does this policy track right through the supply chain? What does the employer stand for? What values do they live by? Who do they associate with?
More and more individuals, and in particular millennials, are basing decisions on employment around these criteria, rather than expected salary and career progression opportunities. For example, if a business has recently been fined for an environmental offence, or a service provider business has a serial environmental offender as a client, someone with strong beliefs about protecting the environment would almost certainly think twice before joining that company.
Employers will have to be increasingly careful about aligning themselves with the principles and beliefs of their target employees if they are to position themselves as an employer of choice. For businesses such as my firm that rent their premises, potential employees could also be influenced, positively or negatively, by the identity of the landlord.
In a world where employers are battling for the best talent – and this talent is looking at every angle of the employer’s corporate persona, culture, work environments and business relationships – to give them an edge over their competitors, it seems inevitable that they will also start looking closely at who their property relationships are with.
If this matters enough to employers of the future, when negotiating heads of terms for the lease of their next offices they are going to insist on having some say over who owns their building.
Jonathan Seddon is a partner and head of the commercial real estate team at Morton Fraser