John Lewis, the renowned retail partnership, has officially confirmed its intention to undertake significant workforce reductions over the next five years, with reports suggesting that up to 11,000 jobs could be at risk.
This move is part of the company’s broader strategy to return to profitability, involving a mix of redundancies and not filling vacant positions, as disclosed by the Guardian.
The retail partnership, with a current workforce of 76,000, emphasised its commitment to returning the business to profit, but declined to provide specific numbers when approached by the BBC.
A spokesperson for John Lewis stated on Saturday, “The partnership has a plan to return to profit, which involves investing heavily to enhance our customer offer, technology, stores, and becoming more efficient. This is working, and performance is improving, but as we have already announced, that sadly means reducing the number of Partners we need in our business.”
They’ve experienced financial challenges recently
The group, unique in being owned by its workers through a trust known as Partners, has faced financial challenges in recent years. In March 2023, John Lewis reported its second-ever full-year loss, amounting to £234 million, leading to the cancellation of staff bonuses and the closure of 16 department stores and multiple supermarkets, resulting in thousands of job losses.
The company attributed its financial struggles to factors such as high inflation, increased labour costs, and rising energy and freight expenses.
Dissatisfaction has spread
The revelation of additional job cuts follows recent communication to staff regarding a reduction in the redundancy package, moving from two weeks of pay per year to one, starting from February. According to reports in the Guardian, employees have expressed their dissatisfaction on the company’s internal messaging board. Some have advocated for an emergency meeting of the partnership council, an entity that provides partners with a democratic voice through elected representatives. Others have voiced frustration over the perceived disparity in redundancy terms, with departing senior executives reportedly receiving more generous packages.
John Lewis has not disclosed specific details of the proposed job cuts, citing the need for internal communication with its Partners before making any public announcements. The company’s spokesperson stated, “It would be inappropriate to discuss details, and our Partners will be the first to know about any changes.” The news of these impending job cuts adds another layer of uncertainty for the workforce as they grapple with the evolving landscape of the retail industry.
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 the 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.