John Lewis, the renowned retail giant, has issued a stern warning to its staff regarding “unacceptable comments” on its internal intranet as the company contemplates slashing 11,000 jobs to recover from £230 million in losses.

The internal memo, seen by The Daily Telegraph, states that the company will take disciplinary action against employees found responsible for offensive conduct, harassment, or bullying.

The partnership, which also owns Waitrose supermarkets, acknowledged the “significant and understandable strength of feeling about recent announcements” but emphasised that such sentiments should not manifest as abusive comments. Many messages left on the intranet were deemed “abusive, hurtful, and simply unacceptable.”

John Lewis made it clear that any form of inappropriate behaviour could result in meetings with people managers.

Not a social media platform

The company emphasised that its intranet is a business channel, not a social media platform, and should be treated as such by every partner. The move comes amidst reports that at least 10 percent of the company’s workforce, totalling 76,000 employees, may face job cuts across head offices, department stores, and supermarkets over the next five years, according to sources.

Managers are reportedly developing plans for a gradual reduction in the number of roles within the firm, potentially resulting in job redundancies. The Guardian reported a company source indicating that this strategy is part of the effort to recover from a £230 million full-year loss.

Dame Sharon White, the current chairman of John Lewis, now faces the threat of workers going on strike due to fears of mass job cuts. The GMB union, representing around 250 JLP staff members, has expressed concerns and, in a letter to Dame Sharon, warned of a potential strike if urgent reassurances are not provided.

Recent challenges

The troubled firm has been grappling with challenges, including mistakenly informing staff of a slash in redundancy pay last month, leading to an apology from John Lewis. The recent reduction in redundancy pay to one week’s pay per year of service has also stirred discontent among the workforce.

This setback adds to the woes of the 74,000-strong workforce, which saw losses of £234 million in 2022, coupled with the absence of an annual bonus last March. Dame Sharon White is set to step down as chairman of the John Lewis Partnership in February 2025, marking the end of her five-year term and making her tenure the shortest in the company’s history. The recent policy changes, including the reduction in redundancy pay, have been explained by John Lewis as necessary to make policies more affordable and free up cash.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.