The John Lewis Partnership and its grocery subsidiary Waitrose are planning to offer free food to staff between 3 October and 6 January to help with the cost of living.
The work hours meals will be for temporary and agency staff as well as for permanent staff, known as partners.
A spokesperson for the John Lewis Partnership told the BBC that a worker on a four-hour shift could choose one meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner – depending on the time of day.
A partner working an eight-hour shift would be able to choose two meals, he said. The food will be delivered in different ways depending on the workplace, he said.
Staff at larger stores, head offices and distribution centres will have their meals in canteens, while long distance lorry drivers will pre-order packed lunches.
Those working in smaller convenience stores would receive a vending style offer, for example Waitrose salads or sandwiches, he said.
It comes as the John Lewis Partnership sets out to recruit 10,000 temporary roles for the festive season.
In September and October the partnership will start advertising 4,000 seasonal roles at Waitrose shops and 2,000 in John Lewis stores. A further 4,000 roles in its supply chain such as warehouse workers and drivers will be advertised through recruitment agencies, it said.
Inflation and wages
Owned by its workers, John Lewis is among the best payers on the high street, offering a minimum of £11.05 an hour in London and £9.90 across the rest of the UK plus an annual profit-related bonus. However, other supermarkets are now paying their staff more: Aldi is now paying £11.95 an hour in London and £10.50 an hour outside of the M25.
John Lewis’s annual bonus has fallen because of the pandemic and rising costs: there was no payment at all in 2021 and only 3% – the equivalent to one and a half week’s pay – this year. The executive team, including its chair, Sharon White, donated their bonuses to the Red Cross this year.
Talking more broadly about one-off benefits, union leaders warned firms they were no substitute for a pay rise. Kate Bell, head of economics at the TUC, said: “Of course workers will take any form of help they can get this winter. But the only real way to give working families security is a decent pay rise.
“One-off support is not enough. We need to get wages rising across the economy to end this living standards crisis.”
Firms that already offer free lunches to staff include Burberry, Johnson Matthey, Plusnet and Beazley Group. Other organisations offer free lunch on certain days of the week to encourage more workers to come into the office.