Top UK employers for social mobility revealed

Kalila Sangster
·4-min read
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The Social Mobility Foundation is calling on businesses to do more to improve social mobility in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Getty

Professional services firm PwC has been crowned top UK employer for social mobility, according to the Social Mobility Foundation’s Social Mobility Employer Index.

The Social Mobility Foundation said PwC had “demonstrated continuous improvement over the past year.”

The index ranks UK employers on the actions they are taking to access and progress talent from all backgrounds. It highlights the employers doing the most to change the way they find, recruit and progress talented employees from different social class backgrounds.

Accounting and consulting business Grant Thornton came in second place, followed by professional services network KPMG at number three.

Law firms Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and Browne Jacobson, were ranked fourth and fifth respectively, and the Ministry of Justice was at number six on the index.

The Social Mobility Foundation said this year’s Index highlights that some sectors of the economy such as law, the public sector and financial services have taken some positive steps to improve social mobility in the workplace.

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However, the charity said “overall progress is too slow” and is calling on those sectors which have benefited most from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially big tech, gaming, and pharmaceutical companies, to make a public commitment to social mobility in 2021. None of these sectors are represented in the index of the top 75 employers for social mobility.

The combined post-tax profits of tech companies Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have grown by $39bn during Covid-19, according to the Social Mobility Foundation. None of these tech giants entered the Index and the charity is urging them to take action on social mobility.

Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation Rt. Hon Alan Milburn said if businesses fail to do more to improve social mobility in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic the UK will “risk a lost generation.”

Only 36% of firms are setting social mobility targets, despite 85% feeling their clients care about the social class mix of their workforce, Social Mobility Foundation research found.

Many businesses are not fully transparent about who they employ with only 29% of entrants publishing socio-economic background data on their workforce and only 11% of businesses track if they have a class pay gap.

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The Social Mobility Commission found that employees from working class backgrounds face a 7% pay gap in professional and managerial occupations compared to their peers from better-off backgrounds.

Although several law firms appear on the list, the research highlights an unwillingness to recruit outside of Russell Group Universities as 84% of legal firms’ graduate intake was from a Russell Group university.

However, the research found that some employers are investing more heavily in employee development, with 48% of organisations offering buddying and mentoring support — up from 30% in 2019.

Some 40% of firms are supporting the creation of networks of employees from similar backgrounds — up from 26% last year.

However, only 34% of organisations currently offer diversity awareness training with a focus on social mobility, which is unchanged from 2019.

Milburn said: “It is welcome that more and more UK businesses are stepping up to the social mobility plate. Their efforts are changing lives for tens of thousands of our country’s young people.

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“But more must be done. As the COVID-19 crisis continues and the UK descends into a sharp recession, avoiding a jobs catastrophe for young people must become a priority for all large employers.

“Already 60% of the jobs that have been lost since the pandemic began have been among 18–24-year olds. While older people have been the principal health victims of COVID-19, it is incumbent on government and business to ensure that young people are not its social and economic victims.

“Those businesses who have benefitted most financially from COVID-19 have the biggest duty to give back. The tech giants in particular need to take urgent action to put social mobility on their agendas.”

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