How to Give RSUs in the Philippines: A Guide for Local and Foreign Employers‍

Casey Fenton

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November 15, 2023

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Did you know that a recent survey revealed that 75% of employees are more motivated to stay with a company that offers equity compensation? Fortunately for you, there is a wide selection of stock-based incentives to reward loyalty and commitment. For instance, Restricted Stock Units (RSUs), a form of equity compensation, can be a powerful tool to attract and retain top talents, align their goals with the company's, and foster a sense of ownership.

But what if your business is operating in the Philippines? How do you navigate the process of granting RSUs to your employees in this unique labor market?

To help usher in a new era in equity compensation that tends to lean towards the more traditional stock options, it’s advantageous to know the laws of the land. 

Understanding the Philippine Labor Market

Known for their strong work ethic, Filipinos are highly sought-after employees. They're committed, adaptable, resilient, and always willing to go the extra mile.

In addition to work ethic, employment best practices in the Philippines revolve around the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) guidelines. These include minimum wage rates, work hours, overtime and holiday pay, and employee benefits. As an employer, ensuring compliance with these policies fosters a healthy work environment that boosts productivity and morale.

Why Offer Filipino Workers RSUs?

Offering RSUs to your Filipino employees is more than just a strategy to stay competitive. It is a deliberate decision that can bring about a multitude of benefits, not only for the individual employees but for the company as a whole. Here’s why it pays:

Enhanced Employee Engagement and Loyalty

RSUs create a sense of ownership among employees, which directly ties their personal success to the company's performance. This intrinsic link between personal gain and company growth can foster deeper engagement and loyalty. Filipinos are known for their strong sense of loyalty and commitment, and when given a direct stake in the company's success, these traits can be further amplified, resulting in a motivated workforce dedicated to the company's prosperity.

Attraction and Retention of Top Talent

In a competitive job market like the Philippines, where skills and expertise are highly sought after, RSUs can be a significant determining factor for prospective employees. Offering RSUs is a clear indication of your company's long-term commitment to your employees, making your company a more appealing choice for top talents. In addition, RSUs can be a powerful retention tool, as they typically vest over time, incentivizing employees to stay with the company longer.

Rewarding Performance and Productivity

RSUs can be granted based on performance, making them an excellent tool to reward high-performing employees. This can further motivate them to maintain or even improve their performance. Considering the Filipino work ethic, which is characterized by hard work, resilience, and the propensity to go beyond the call of duty, rewarding their effort with equity compensation can lead to higher productivity and a more harmonious workplace.

Alignment of Interests

Employees become more invested in the company's success because it directly impacts the value of their RSUs. In the context of Filipino work ethics, this alignment of interests can be particularly effective. Filipinos are known for their culture of communal unity and cooperation towards a shared objective. Integration of this cultural principle into your equity compensation plan can create a workforce united in its commitment to achieving the company's goals.

5. Competitive Edge in the Market

Granting RSUs can give your company a competitive edge. As the Philippines continues to develop as a hub for startups and tech companies, the demand for unique and enticing compensation packages increases. Being among the first to offer equity compensation like RSUs could place your company ahead of others in the race to attract and retain the best talents.

Processing RSU Grants: Step-by-Step Procedures

Since the concept of Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) is relatively new to the Philippine corporate setting (it favors stock options), you should strive for effective planning and processing to make it a success and eventually introduce its lasting benefits for both your company and your employees.

1. Identify Eligible Employees

Determine who among your employees will receive RSUs. Typically, this involves key personnel, whose performance directly influences the company's success. In making this decision, consider each employee's role, seniority, and overall contribution to the company.

2. Decide on the Number of Units

Decide how many RSUs each eligible employee will receive. This decision can be influenced by various factors including their role, tenure, and past performance. It's important to maintain a fair and transparent system when determining the number of units for each employee.

3. Draft the RSU Agreement

Once you've identified the recipients and the number of units, create an RSU agreement. This document outlines the terms and conditions of the RSU grant. It should detail vesting schedules, forfeiture conditions, and the rights and obligations of the grantee. It should also discuss the tax implications associated with the grant.

4. Obtain Legal and Financial Advice

Consult with legal and financial experts. A local attorney will ensure that your RSU plan complies with Philippine laws, particularly those under the Securities Regulation Code (SRC) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) guidelines. On the other hand, a financial expert or accountant can help minimize tax liabilities and confirm the financial soundness of the plan.

5. Grant the RSUs

With legal and financial checks completed, you can now grant the RSUs to the identified employees. Provide each with a copy of the RSU agreement, ensuring they understand the terms and conditions. It may be helpful to have an open forum or one-on-one discussions to clarify any queries.

6. Implement Tracking Systems

Before you forget, it’s important to meticulously track all RSUs granted, vested, and sold. Implement reliable tracking systems to effectively manage this data. Regular coordination with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is also necessary to report and remit the correct taxes related to the RSUs.

Legal Considerations and Tax Implications in the Philippine Setting

When considering granting RSUs in the Philippines, you must be mindful of the legal and tax implications.

The Securities Regulation Code (SRC) governs all transactions related to securities in the Philippines. RSUs, as a form of equity compensation, fall under this regulation. You must ensure your RSU plan complies with the SRC to avoid legal complications. Failure to comply can result in severe penalties, so it's imperative to consult with a legal expert familiar with Philippine securities law.

Under Philippine tax law, RSUs are considered fringe benefits and are subject to the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT). When the RSUs vest, the value of the vested units is considered additional income for the employee and is taxed accordingly. The tax rate may vary depending on the employees' income bracket and the prevailing tax laws at the time of vesting. Coordination with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is necessary to ensure the accurate reporting and remittance of these taxes.

In addition to the SRC and tax laws, you should consider studying labor laws regulated by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). These laws ensure fair employment practices and protect employee rights. Although RSUs aren't directly covered by DOLE, any equity compensation should be in line with the fair practices stipulated by this government institution.

Proper legal documentation should also be noted in the entire process of granting RSUs. This includes the RSU agreement and any paperwork related to the grant, vesting, and sale of the RSUs. Ensuring these documents are legally sound protects both the company and the employee.

Additionally, you should seek the guidance of legal and financial advisors. They can provide expert advice to ensure that your RSU plan complies with all relevant laws and regulations, is financially sound, and minimizes potential tax liabilities.

Communicating the Equity Compensation Among Filipino Employees

Communicating your RSU program effectively to your Filipino employees is as necessary as the legal and financial considerations. You might encounter challenges such as limited knowledge about RSUs, apprehensions about tax implications, and concerns about vesting periods.

Address these challenges by conducting informative sessions about RSUs, including their benefits and implications. Reassure your employees that the company will provide guidance throughout the vesting process and beyond. Transparent communication is key to fostering trust and understanding about your RSU program.

Outlook for RSUs as Equity Compensation in the Philippines

The Philippine business landscape is progressively recognizing the value of equity compensation. Given the increasingly competitive labor market, an RSU program could be a strategic move for your company. As more firms recognize its benefits, staying ahead of the curve can be a competitive advantage. While it may require due diligence and careful planning, the rewards of offering RSUs can outweigh the challenges. 

Upstock believes in rewarding a globally-competitive workforce, which includes employees based in the Philippines. To know more about our RSU plans and equity management platform, book a demo with us today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Casey Fenton

Founder, Upstock & Couchsurfing, AI and Equity Innovator

Casey Fenton, the founder of Upstock & Couchsurfing and an AI and equity innovator, has revolutionized how we perceive and implement equity in the workplace. His foresight in creating platforms that not only connect people but also align their interests towards communal and corporate prosperity has established him as a pivotal figure in technology and community building. Casey speaks worldwide on topics including ownership mindset, worker equity, With Upstock and Couchsurfing, he has demonstrated an unparalleled expertise in harnessing technology for the betterment of community interaction and organizational benefits.

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