Using data on Polish firms this paper examines the relationship between corporate control structures, sales growth and the determinants of employment change. Privatised and de novo firms are the main drivers of employment growth; in the case of de novo firms, it is foreign ownership which underpins the result. Being privatised has a positive impact on employment but this is concentrated within a range of 3–6 years after privatisation. There are no systematic differences in employment response to negative sales growth across the ownership categories. Employment in state firms is less responsive to positive sales growth. From these results we infer that the behaviour of state firms is affected by both insider rent sharing and binding budget constraints.