John Lewis is set to become the largest retailer in the UK to offer six months’ equal parental leave, as well as two weeks’ paid leave for couples who lose a child during pregnancy.
The offer was part of a “new package of support” for the company’s 80,000 workers, the partnership said on Thursday.
Starting this autumn, new parents who have worked at the company for more than a year will receive 26 weeks of paid leave, with the first 14 weeks at full pay and the next 12 at 50 per cent pay.
Employees who experience the loss of a pregnancy will be entitled to take two weeks’ paid leave.
“Sharing childcare can be good for gender equality and reducing the gender pay gap,” the partnership said, citing a 2018 study conducted by the UK government’s behavioural insights team.
Sharon White, John Lewis chair, said that “as an employee-owned business, equality matters to us”.
Changes to the group’s flexible working policy are also expected, and a scheme run with Essex county council to get young people from the care system into work will launch later this month.
The policies were welcomed by Caroline Nokes MP, chair of parliament’s women and equalities committee. “The pandemic has been particularly hard for families juggling all sorts of different demands and pressures,” she said, “and I am pleased but not surprised the John Lewis Partnership has risen to the challenge to help both existing and future employees.”
Statutory maternity pay in the UK is paid for up to 39 weeks at 90 per cent of the employee’s average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks. For the next 33 weeks, pay is equal to either £151.97 per week or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
New fathers are entitled to the same money but can choose to either take one week or two consecutive weeks’ leave.
Like most retailers, the John Lewis Partnership has been hit hard by the pandemic, posting a pre-tax loss of £517m in the year to January 30, down from a profit of £146m in 2019.
It blamed the loss on a writedown in the value of its physical stores following the shift to online shopping, as well as restructuring and redundancy costs.