MORE than 200 jobs are at risk with the announcement that John Lewis York will not reopen when lockdown lifts.

Staff affected are being consulted and a spokesman for the store said that, if redundancies are confirmed, efforts will be made to help them find new roles.

John Lewis is not alone in weighing up future options for their store estates and the fate of employees.

Employment expert Kate Hindmarch, of Langleys Solicitors, offers this advice to those affected by the difficult decisions, on both sides of the fence.

Department stores like John Lewis have long been established household names and have countless times adapted to a change in the times. Unfortunately, the events of the last year were not foreseeable and retail has been some of the worst affected areas of the British economy.

In an attempt at preventing the spread of the virus all non-essential retailers, such as John Lewis, were forced to pull down their shutters.

There was some brief relief when they were able to re-open last summer, however this has been affecting stores for the last year in addition to the already downward facing trend of high street sales.

John Lewis have confirmed that the stores closing were already 'financially challenged prior to the pandemic.


Since announcing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“furlough”) in March 2020, the Government has been able to offer significant financial aid to the British high street during the pandemic.

This scheme has been extended several times and is currently available until the end of September 2021.

Despite the extension of the scheme, since 1 August 2020, employers have been required to make a contribution to the scheme and, as such, continuing to keep employees on furlough may not be sustainable for the business.

Whilst the furlough scheme has become more sophisticated to ensure as many companies as possible survive until the end of the restrictions, it was by no way a guarantee that all jobs would survive the momentous financial toll and redundancies would at some point be inevitable.

In some cases, the furlough scheme may have delayed redundancies that would have occurred even without pandemic.

It has been well publicised that the John Lewis employees did not receive their bonus this year for the first time since 1953 confirming the store’s financial struggles pre-dating the pandemic.

In order to aid the financial recovery of the company, John Lewis has announced it will be closing some of the struggling stores, including their large York store.

Whilst this move makes good business sense in broader terms, the closures are likely to be acutely felt by those working within the stores named for closure, many of whom have been on furlough and are concerned about potential redundancy.

The usual rules surrounding redundancy have not changed and ACAS, CBI and TUC have issued a joint statement to employers on best practice when handling redundancies.

That said, we can offer the below additional general advice for those who have been informed, or have concerns that, they are at risk of redundancy following a period of furlough:

• The furlough scheme does not prevent an employee who is currently, or has recently been, on furlough from being made redundant.

• An employee’s employment and redundancy rights are not affected by being furloughed. If the employee has 2 years’ continuous employment they will be entitled to statutory redundancy as well as any contract redundancy entitlement.

• During the consultation period, employee’s may continue to receive the lower furlough pay.

• If following the consultation period, the decision is made to place an employee on redundancy, they are entitled to their full notice period in accordance with their contracts. They are also entitled to receive their full salary during their notice period even if they are currently in receipt of reduced pay as a result of being on furlough.

• Unless topped up by the employer, many employees have been in receipt of 80% of their usual pay whilst on furlough. We stress that redundancy pay must be calculated using the employee’s full normal pay and not the 80% furlough pay.

• As with a lot of the retail sector, if the employee’s pay differs from week to week then an average weekly pay must be calculated by using the 12 weeks immediately prior to the redundancy notice, if the employee has only received 80% pay due to furlough this must also be topped up to 100%. This can be aided by the calculation used by your employer to determine your entitlement under the furlough scheme.

Mental health

Redundancy can always have significant and detrimental impact on the mental health and wellbeing of both those who are subject to the process and those surrounding them.

This is even more of a concern following the events of the last year and the upcoming impacts of wide-spread unemployment.

If you have any concerns we stress the importance of maintaining open communication between employer and employee during the redundancy process and maintain a strong support network.

This note is general advice and should you have any specific legal concerns or questions regarding redundancy or furlough you are encouraged contact either your employer, a solicitor or ACAS.

Kate Hindmarch is a partner in employment law at Langleys Solicitors, which has offices in York and Lincoln.