Employee ownership

The John Lewis Partnership is the largest employee-owned company in the UK.

The Partnership Council meets four times a year and represents all Partners
The Partnership Council meets four times a year and represents all Partners.

When our founder, John Spedan Lewis, set up the Partnership, he made it both commercial and democratic. He also signed away his personal ownership rights to allow future generations of employees to take forward his 'experiment in industrial democracy'. Our structure gives our management the freedom to be entrepreneurial and competitive in the way they run the company, while giving Partners the rights and responsibilities of ownership through active involvement in the business.

Watch a short film of Partners explaining why our business is different:


Partners are instrumental in all that we do, including helping to shape, manage and deliver our sustainability goals.

A business like the John Lewis Partnership can set ambitious sustainability targets but it is only through successfully harnessing Partners' passion and energy that we can achieve engagement and participation across every aspect of our sustainability agenda.

The Partner Survey

All 91,000 Partners have a say in how the Partnership is run, as well as an equal percentage share in the profits. Giving our Partners a voice is central to the principles of co-ownership, and we engage their views and opinions in a number of ways, including the annual Partner Survey, first started in 2003.

The Partner Survey goes to all Partners and is anonymous. Each shop receives separate results so we can identify Partners' concerns more easily and act on them, without compromising their anonymity.

The Survey has questions on a number of subjects including job satisfaction, pay, career development, management, their branch, the democratic bodies and the Partnership as a business. Partners' replies are processed by an external company: no-one in the Partnership sees individual responses.

The employee-owned sector

There are many more businesses that are substantially or wholly owned by the people who work for them. The employee-owned sector is estimated to have a value of £25 billion, representing 2 per cent of the UK economy and it is growing.

Employee-owned businesses take a variety of forms and operate in almost every sector of the economy. They are united by an ethos that puts people first, involving the workforce in key decision-making and realising the potential and commitment of their employees. These companies are represented by the Employee Ownership Association which promotes the interests of the sector to government and other stakeholders.

To find out more about employee ownership:

  • Read the press release Employee ownership model 'shows greater resilience' explaining published research that finds that companies owned by their employees are more resilient than conventionally structured companies, outperforming the market during the downturn and demonstrating a lower risk of business failure.
  • Read a guide to employee ownership which includes case studies of other employee-owned businesses and advice for business owners considering transferring to employee ownership. Download our guide to employee ownership (PDF size: 312KB).
  • Watch the video 'Employee Ownership, A Shared Passion', which explains how our employee owned business model operates in practice, and offers insight and advice to anyone wanting to learn more about this sort of model and its benefits. Watch the Employee Ownership, A Shared Passion video (2:45 minutes) or Employee Ownership, A Shared Passion video with subtitles (2:45 minutes).
  • Find out more about the Employee Ownership Association (www.employeeownership.co.uk).