The John Lewis Partnership will become the first UK retailer to launch six months’ equal parenthood paid leave and two weeks’ paid leave for any Partner who experiences the loss of a pregnancy.
These commitments, alongside the start of a pilot programme to provide career help for young people leaving the care system, are part of a new package of support for Partners (employees), who jointly co-own the business.
Informed by feedback from Partners who shared what mattered most to them, these commitments support our vision to become the UK’s most inclusive business for our Partners and customers, reflecting and connecting with the diverse communities we serve.
Equality is a founding principle of the Partnership, which was formed almost 100 years ago and supported through our unique employee-owned business structure and written Constitution. These new commitments are a stride forward in redefining our responsibility to this principle and what it means to our Partners in today’s society.
Support announced today, which forms part of our Partnership Plan, includes:
- Equal parental pay and leave: From this autumn, all Partners and regardless of how they have become a parent, will receive 26 weeks paid leave (14 weeks at full contractual pay and 12 weeks at 50% contractual pay) once they have worked for the Partnership for one year. Studies show that sharing childcare can be good for gender equality and reducing the gender pay gap1, yet being able to afford to take time off remains a barrier – particularly for low income families2.
- Pregnancy loss support: Any Partner who experiences the loss of a pregnancy will be entitled to take two weeks’ paid leave. Like all Partners, they will also have access to emotional support through the Partnership’s free counselling and mental health services.
- Flexible First commitment: All job vacancies will be advertised with a flexible working option, unless there is an operational reason why this is not possible. A ‘blended’ working approach for office-based Partners also begins this month, providing Partners with choice and flexibility with where and how they work.
- Part-time working: Through our internal Part-Time Advisory Group, we’ve identified more ways to support part-time Partners to help them progress in our business. This includes changes to our flexible working policy and reviewing our recruitment processes.
- Supporting young people leaving the care system: This month we are starting a pilot programme with Essex County Council to help young people aged 18 to 24 leaving the care system into employment. We will help identify job opportunities via our current job vacancies and provide support including coaching and mentoring and interview practice in the run up. We will also continue with ongoing coaching and mentoring once a role has been secured.
- Supporting ethnic minorities: Inspired by work achieved by our internal Black Partner Advisory Group over the last 12 months, we will expand our reverse mentoring scheme, where ethnic minority Partners from across the Partnership mentor senior leaders. To cater for a broader range of customers, we will continue adding new products online and in our shops. Hosiery from Sheer Chemistry, clothing ranges with AAB and designer Kemi Telford, greeting cards by AfroTouch and new world foods have already launched across John Lewis and Waitrose.
- Inclusion Committee: We are creating an Inclusion Committee, which will launch in the summer and feature external advisers who have strong diversity and inclusion experience, as well as our own Partners. The committee will help accelerate and scrutinise the delivery of our plans to be a more inclusive business that welcomes and celebrates diversity.
Sharon White, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: “As an employee-owned business, equality matters to us. We want John Lewis and Waitrose to be a place for everyone and for people from all walks of life to feel valued so they can thrive in our business.
“We want to be there for our Partners to support them in important life moments, whether that’s stepping into the world of work for the first time, or becoming a parent.”
Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP and Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee said: “The recent work of the Women and Equalities Committee has highlighted a number of areas in which employers can really help. This announcement from the John Lewis Partnership has shown them to be really leading the way in making sure their Partners are supported, with a commitment to flexible working, equal maternity and paternity paid leave and baby loss leave. All initiatives which will make a real difference.
“The pandemic has been particularly hard for families juggling all sorts of different demands and pressures and I am pleased but not surprised the John Lewis Partnership has risen to the challenge to help both existing and future employees.”
Felicia Willow, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said: “It’s great to see the John Lewis Partnership supporting working mothers and fathers to look after their children. We need more UK business to follow this example and enable both parents to take parental leave. The expectation that childcare falls to mothers helps the gender pay gap and many other workplace inequalities to thrive.
“It’s also encouraging to see the John Lewis Partnership making a clear commitment to advertise all vacancies with a flexible working option. This proves that despite the Employment Bill being delayed, there is no reason businesses can’t step up and put in place policies that will improve gender equality in the workplace.”
Jacqui Clinton, who directs Tommy’s corporate Pregnancy and Parenting at Work service, said: “Baby loss at any stage in pregnancy is one of the most heart-breaking things any family can experience – and one that’s endured all too frequently, but often quietly, because of persistent stigma in society. It’s fantastic to see companies acknowledging this impact and tackling this taboo by creating dedicated leave policies; this will help anyone who’s struggling to reach out, and to feel confident and supported in doing so.”
Further information on our commitments to diversity and inclusion can also be found in our Be Yourself. Always Report. The John Lewis Partnership was the first UK high street retailer to publish its ethnicity pay gap as part of this report in January 2020 and the first to publish its parental pay and leave policies in full last year on its jobs website, so that parents applying to our business know what support is available to them. The John Lewis Partnership is also a signatory to the British Retail Consortium’s Diversity & Inclusion Charter.