What You Should Know About Employee Stock Purchase Plans


Employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs) have become popular compensation tools for employers. An ESPP is a program that allows employees to purchase company stocks at a discounted price. ESPPs are designed to motivate employees and give them a sense of ownership in the company. As an employee, it is important to know the ins and outs of ESPPs before participating in one. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about ESPPs.

What are employee stock purchase plans?

Employee stock purchase plans are programs that allow employees to purchase company stocks at a discounted price. An ESPP is a type of compensation plan that is offered by many companies as a part of their employee benefits package. These plans are offered as a way to encourage employee participation and to help employees feel like they have a stake in the success of the company.

How do ESPPs work?

ESPPs generally work in one of two ways: they can be either qualified or non-qualified plans. Qualified plans are offered under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and are tax-advantaged plans. Employees participating in a qualified ESPP can purchase company stock at a discounted price, and the discount is not counted as income for tax purposes until the stock is sold. Non-qualified plans, on the other hand, are not offered under ERISA and do not offer tax advantages. Employees participating in a non-qualified ESPP can purchase company stock at a discounted price, but the discount is considered income for tax purposes in the year the stock is purchased.

What are the benefits of ESPPs?

ESPPs can offer a number of benefits to employees. These benefits include:
  • The ability to purchase company stock at a discounted price
  • Potential for gains in the stock price
  • A sense of ownership in the company
  • Increased motivation and loyalty to the company

What are the risks of ESPPs?

While ESPPs can offer many benefits, they also come with risks. Some risks include:
  • The stock price may decrease, resulting in losses for participants
  • Employees may over-invest in company stock, leading to a lack of diversification in their investment portfolio
  • If the company performs poorly, the stock price may suffer, resulting in lower returns for participants

How to participate in an ESPP

If your company offers an ESPP, you will need to understand the terms and conditions of the plan before you can participate. You may need to wait for a specified period of time before you can enroll in the plan, and you may need to meet certain eligibility requirements, such as minimum length of service. Once you have enrolled in the plan, a certain percentage of your paycheck will be deducted and used to purchase company stock at a discounted price. The frequency of these purchases may vary depending on the plan, but they typically occur on a regular basis, such as quarterly or semi-annually.


Employee stock purchase plans can be a valuable compensation tool for employers and employees alike. Before participating in an ESPP, it is important to understand the terms and conditions of the plan, as well as the risks and benefits associated with it. By taking the time to research and educate yourself on ESPPs, you can make an informed decision about whether or not to participate in the plan.