// John Lewis Partnership launches new support for families and young people leaving the care system
// it becomes the first UK retailer to introduce 6 months’ equal parenthood paid maternity & paternity leave
// It will also offer career support and job opportunities programme for young people leaving the care system
The John Lewis Partnership has announced the introduction of six months of equal parenthood paid leave for any staff member, in what is dubbed a UK retail first.
The parent company of John Lewis and Waitrose also confirmed it would offer any staff member two weeks of paid leave if they experience 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 staff across the partnership.
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Informed by feedback from staff, these commitments part of John Lewis Partnership’s ambitions to become the UK’s most inclusive business for both staff and customers.
“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,” the retail giant said in a statement.
“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.”
The John Lewis Partnership said its equal parental pay and leave will be offered from this autumn, and staff who have been with the business for one year will become eligible for it regardless of how they became a parent.
It will comprise of 26 weeks paid leave – 14 weeks at full contractual pay and 12 weeks at 50 per cent contractual pay.
Meanwhile, any staff member who experiences the loss of a pregnancy will be entitled to take two weeks’ paid leave, and they will also have access to emotional support through the company’s free counselling and mental health services.
The John Lewis Partnership also said that this month it would launch a pilot programme with Essex County Council to help young people aged 18-24 leaving the care system into employment.
The retail giant said it would help identify job opportunities via its current job vacancies and provide support, such as coaching and mentoring and interview practice.
It added that it would continue with ongoing coaching and mentoring once a role has been secured.
The partnership also said that all job vacancies would now be advertised with a flexible working option, unless there is an operational reason why this is not possible, and that a “blended” working approach for office-based staff will begin this month.
Regarding diversity and citing the work of its internal Black Partner Advisory Group over the last 12 months, John Lewis Partnership said it would now expand its reverse mentoring scheme, where ethnic minority staff from across the business mentor senior leaders.
The retailer also said it would aim to cater for a broader range of customers by adding new products online and in stores, such as hosiery from Sheer Chemistry, clothing ranges with AAB and designer Kemi Telford, greeting cards by AfroTouch and new world foods.
The John Lewis Partnership added that it was creating an Inclusion Committee, which will launch in summer and feature staff and external advisers who have strong diversity and inclusion experience.
The committee will help accelerate and scrutinise the delivery of the partnership’s plans to be a more inclusive business that welcomes and celebrates diversity.
“As an employee-owned business, equality matters to us,” John Lewis Partnership chair Dame Sharon White said.
“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.”