Executive responsibility:

People and Stores Director

Link to foundations:

Committed colleagues, data-driven decision making

Link to principal risks:

People and culture

Our targets:

  • Improve colleague engagement score by the end of FY20.

Our commitment

We believe that a great place to work is a great place to shop. We can only deliver great products and services to our customers through the hard work and commitment of our colleagues.

About our colleagues

During the year we employed an average of over 9,500 colleagues across our business, with around 7,500 working in our stores. Approximately two-thirds of colleagues work part-time or on seasonal contracts, and one-third are on full-time contracts, reflecting the significance of store-based hourly contracts in our industry. 

Covid-19 impact and learnings

At the outset of the Covid-19 crisis our immediate focus was to make our colleagues feel safe and supported – financially, physically and emotionally. Our decisions were made in a thoughtful and principled way by listening to and engaging with our colleagues more frequently.

We paid all of our colleagues their full pay during March and April 2020, and continued to pay all vulnerable colleagues and carers of vulnerable family members in full throughout. From May 2020, we paid colleagues who were on furlough 80% of their pay, and put in place a hardship fund to ‘top up’ pay to the full amount if they were in severe financial hardship. We provided assistance to 43 colleagues in this way. By July 2020, most of our colleagues (other than those in the vulnerable group above) were back at work on full pay.

We envisage that many new initiatives introduced during this period will stay, including: weekly video updates from our CEO, a deeper consideration of our diverse populations in our decision making (e.g. how we have protected our vulnerable colleagues), using the ‘virtual workplace’ to expand internal recruitment, and investigating flexible working arrangements built on stronger mutual trust and honesty. We have also retained our colleague hardship fund.


Supporting colleague health and wellbeing

We have been increasing our focus on mental health awareness in the business for around two years, primarily educating and engaging colleagues through face-to-face training for our managers and via our Home Comforts in-house communication tool. We are now using our insight to tailor mental health and wellbeing initiatives more effectively, focusing on early intervention and prevention. In May 2020, we partnered with a provider who develops clinically-approved content (licensed from the Black Dog institute) to develop an app with mental health and mood-tracking modules. Around 500 colleagues have signed up to date and we are receiving positive feedback.

We also used Home Comforts to understand and react to colleague sentiment and wellbeing during the Covid-19 crisis, expanding it to include a ‘Wellbeing hub’ where we collated information and advice on finances, healthy eating, and emotional wellbeing. Over 1,000 colleagues have logged in to this content.

Diversity and inclusion

We believe that having a diverse and inclusive working environment correlates directly with the health and wellbeing of our colleagues. We are committed to:

  • Educating and raising awareness (by explaining, for example, the background of Pride month and Black Lives Matter demonstrations).
  • Promoting colleague engagement (through conversations and internal network building).
  • Understanding and celebrating colleague diversity (starting with better data collection).

Our programme is fully endorsed by our leadership team and the Board, and we have appointed a strategic partner to audit our policies and practices and help to build awareness and make our commitments resonate more strongly in our workplace. We are also looking to extend diversity and inclusion training, and audit our colleague practices from a diversity and inclusion point of view.

This year we collected ethnicity data from new joiners. At the end of February 2020 our data covered 59% of our colleagues and, of these, 89% are white British. Our planned colleague census in April 2020 was put on hold owing to the Covid-19 crisis; however, we intend to complete data collection by the end of 2020. We are also supporting our 300 or so colleagues who are EU nationals to obtain ‘settled status’ in advance of the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020.

We published our third gender pay report in July 2020 and were pleased to report that we reduced both key gender pay gap metrics. Our 2019 median gap was 7.6% (2018: 7.9%) and our mean gap was 18.0% (2018: 19.2%). We know we need to work hard to meet our aim to reduce these gaps further given the skew towards women holding lower-paid roles in our business – as is the case in the UK retail sector in general. At Dunelm, for example, 80% of our colleagues are hourly paid in our stores and, of these, 74% are female. Nonetheless, we are committed to improving and remaining open to change. During the Covid-19 crisis, for example, around 70 furloughed store colleagues took on flexible home-based roles supporting the Customer Care Centre. While this approach alone will not reduce our gender pay gap sufficiently, it serves as a reminder that there may be other solutions to consider.

At the end of June 2020, the overall breakdown of male and female colleagues remained at 32:68 with no significant movement over the year. The analysis by job role is as follows:

Our equality and diversity policy

We aim to provide fair employment to all colleagues, regardless of disability, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital status or age. Further details are in our equality and diversity policy, which is available at, which is incorporated into this report by reference.




% Female

Group Board





Executive Board





Dunelm Leadership Team
(including Executive Board members)





All other colleagues





Colleague engagement

We engage with our colleagues formally and informally, using regular ‘huddles’ (informal team briefings), weekly topical emails, Home Comforts, Intouch and Yammer intranet communications, an annual strategy communication event and a Company-wide ‘new year celebration’ which marks the start of the financial year. During the Covid-19 crisis we supplemented these with weekly Company-wide CEO updates via video, a weekly listening group at our distribution centre in Stoke, and ‘pulse’ surveys to understand store colleague concerns as they returned to work; these have now been extended to all hourly-paid colleagues.

Our regular National Colleague Voice (NCV) meetings (colleague council meetings) are attended by senior management and enable colleagues to raise and discuss issues. At the last meeting held virtually in June 2020, agenda points included: colleague feedback on our new business foundations and shared values; learnings from the Covid-19 experience; and structural changes. Colleagues were represented by 13 voices and the Group Board was represented by our CEO (Nick Wilkinson), Remuneration Committee Chair (William Reeve) and our designated Non-Executive Director for employee matters (Marion Sears). The matters discussed are fed back at the next Group Board meeting. Key learnings (which we are already implementing) from holding virtual NCV meetings are that: we can make them more inclusive and collaborative, hold them more frequently, make them shorter, discuss more relevant topics ‘in depth’, and use the information from this important consultation body more effectively in our decision making.

Talent management, training and colleague retention

We aim to grow and retain talent in the business, filling management roles internally where possible and investing in colleague training and development: 97% of store manager roles were filled internally in the year (2019: 92%). To build our next generation of leaders, we launched our retail apprenticeship scheme in September 2019 with 13 colleagues taking part in this new initiative, in addition to taking on 13 graduates through our graduate recruitment programme.

During the year, our Senior Leadership team took part in a series of behaviour-based leadership debates, facilitated by a third party. We are currently re-evaluating ‘what makes a good leader’ in light of our learnings from the Covid-19 experience, looking to update and tailor our framework where appropriate.

In line with our Customer 1st strategy, we established and resourced a new, standalone Data Insight team to bolster our capability. To achieve this, we recruited a higher number of external candidates to fill highly specialised digital and marketing roles.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic we were pleased to report a downward trend in labour turnover for a third year in a row. This trajectory, however, has been more difficult to interpret since the pandemic.


Changing the boundaries

The Covid-19 crisis changed traditional boundaries. Technology and homeworking empowered many colleagues, giving them opportunities to take on roles that previously would have been impossible. Store colleagues joined forces with our Customer Care Centre many miles away from each other, and curtain fitters and furniture delivery teams pooled resources to coordinate services. We have realised that by removing geographical boundaries and rigid job descriptions we have access to a larger, highly valuable pool of motivated, empowered colleagues and a greater opportunity to fulfil our aim to recruit and promote internally.

Performance against target

SCORE (eNPS) %pts

Year-on-year improvement


Why this measure is important

  • This measure rates our colleagues’ experience with us and helps us understand where we need to improve.

2019/20 performance

  • Our annual survey (due to be completed May 2020) was postponed; our last engagement survey was completed in November 2019 so we have used a half-year on half-year figure as this provides the most appropriate comparison; this demonstrated an increase of 9%pts.
  • Our external Glassdoor ranking was fourth in the retail group as at July 2020.


  • Evaluate and shape our colleague agenda based on key learnings from changes during the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Continue to improve colleague engagement through more regular, relevant and interactive communication.
  • Evaluate more flexible colleague working arrangements and empowered roles.
  • Continue to focus on preventative initiatives in relation to physical, emotional and financial wellbeing.
  • Extend our diversity and inclusion work, including audits of our existing practices and education for all colleagues.