A Labour government would give workers the first refusal to buy their company if it came up for sale, Jeremy Corbyn announced today (15 September).

The radical 'Right to Own' policy is similar to Ed Miliband's 2015 general election commitment to "explore" giving staff the statutory right to request employee ownership during business succession.

"The productivity benefits are clear, with worker-owned companies typically being more productive than those that are more traditionally owned," Corbyn stated about the initiative.

"Labour will look to create a 'Right to Own', giving workers facing a change of ownership or closure of a firm the first refusal in putting together a worker-owned alternative."

The left-winger said regional development banks will be tasked with providing the finance to make employee ownership and co-operative ownership a "reality across our economy".

"I want to see local councils building on the example of Preston, where a focus on using local government procurement ... has helped support the local economy with real investment and sustain co-operative local enterprises," Corbyn added.

"But we can go further than this ... I want to see a new, co-operatively owned 'British Mittelstand' created; high-investment, high-productivity smaller firms that provide high-quality employment in those sectors where we have the greatest potential; digital technology, healthcare, high-value added manufacturing.

"I want to see co-operatively owned renewable energy companies driving the transition to a low carbon economy.

"New technologies and new business models ... backed up by government investment and shared industrial strategy."

The Employee Ownership Association, which champions the business model, has claimed productivity rates among the top 50 employee-owned firms in 2016 increased by 1.5%, above their non-employee-owned counterparts.

Retail giant John Lewis Partnership, engineering company Mott MacDonald and consultancy Arup are some of the best-known employee-owned businesses.

Corbyn's policy announcement comes near the end of his campaign to retain the Labour leadership.

He is facing competition from former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith, with the winner of the contest to be announced on 24 September at Labour's annual conference in Liverpool.

UPDATE 07:48 BST (16 September)

Top corporate lawyer Tim Bird, a partner at Fieldfisher, told IBTimes UK that Corbyn's policy would be "completely unworkable".

"It would massively add to the complexity time and cost of selling a business and would put off financial investors who always want to have an easy exit," he warned.

Graeme Nuttall, another partner at the firm who advised the coalition government on employee ownership, said it was "good to see...support from all political parties in one form or another for employee ownership".

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