Inflation is at a 40-year high, with the cost of living putting financial pressure on the entire UK workforce. What support should employers be providing?
Recently, John Lewis announced that it would dedicate £45 million to help ease the pressure on its employees – or “Partners”.
We asked Jo Rackham, Director of Reward & Policy at the John Lewis Partnership, about the changes they're making and their impact on the business and its employees:
Q: How has the cost-of-living crisis affected your employees, and what made you decide to help?
A: The cost-of-living crisis is impacting everyone globally. This includes our customers, Partners (employees) and suppliers, and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to support them during these challenging times.
The health and wellbeing of our Partners is extremely important to us, and we know that the cost-of-living crisis will impact everyone in different ways. That’s why we are helping them as much as possible by providing financial initiatives alongside our free mental health and financial wellbeing service, which all Partners can access throughout the year.
Our Partners are able to have open and transparent conversations about anything they would like to raise via our partner voice groups, branch forums and council meetings. Employees use these meetings to discuss any challenges they may be facing and to deliberate on potential solutions.
Q: What action has the company taken to alleviate the impact of the crisis on its employees, and why?
A: We’re providing all our Partners with a £500 one-off cost-of-living payment – prorated for part-time partners – alongside an increase in entry-level pay rates, which will benefit around 70% of our Partners. We’re also providing free meals to all on-duty workers and seasonal staff until 6 January 2023, and we've doubled our Financial Assistance Fund, which provides both loans and grants to help those who are facing particular difficulties.
Q: What did you have to take into consideration before implementing your packages for employees? What impact have these changes had on your business and employees?
A: We sought feedback through our democratic channels on the challenges our partners were facing and the best way we could respond, considering the right balance between our Partners and the Partnership.
We’ve made a conscious choice to support all our Partners through the cost-of-living crisis, even if that means forgoing profit, as our purpose-led business model lies at the heart of our decision making. Our business model is our commitment to ‘working in Partnership for a happier world’. Our happier business starts with happier Partners, enjoying worthwhile and satisfying work in a supportive environment we all help to create. We want our Partners to feel energised about what’s at the heart of the business and, in turn, pass on this happiness and purpose to our customers.
Q: On top of the recent programmes you have introduced, what other benefits do you already offer your employees to support their financial wellbeing?
A: Partners can access our free, unique Partner wellbeing service, which offers confidential, emotional, practical, and financial support throughout the year. We also offer them a free subscription to the Unmind app, which has a wide range of support and tools for maintaining and improving your mental health. They also have access to Nudge, a free-to-use online financial wellbeing platform.
Our Partners can enjoy discounts with both John Lewis and Waitrose and enjoy other negotiated discounts with brands, and providers of utilities and services, to help with domestic and leisure costs. Both employees and our customers can also benefit from exclusive savings and discounts via our MyWaitrose and My John Lewis loyalty schemes.
Q: Why do you think it is so important for businesses to support the financial wellbeing of their workforce?
A: Without our Partners, there would be no Partnership. Therefore, it is essential to us that we support them as much as we can during these challenging times, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation.
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