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Top 50 UK employers for social mobility

Social Mobility Employer Index announces top 50 UK employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility within the workplace

The top 50 UK employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace are announced in what is believed to be the world’s first ever social mobility employer index.

The index is a joint initiative between the Social Mobility Foundation and the Social Mobility Commission, in partnership with the City of London Corporation.

It ranks Britain’s employers for the first time on the actions they are taking to ensure they are open to accessing and progressing talent from all backgrounds and it showcases progress towards improving social mobility.

The aim of the index is to encourage firms to share their initiatives and progress in becoming more inclusive employers and to reveal which sectors and companies are taking the issue of social mobility most seriously.

The top 10 firms named in the index top 50 are:

  1. Grant Thornton UK LLP
  2. KPMG UK LLP
  3. Skanska UK PLC
  4. Standard Life
  5. Deloitte UK
  6. JP Morgan
  7. PwC
  8. Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP
  9. WM Morrisons Supermarkets Plc
  10. Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Research has consistently shown that people from more affluent backgrounds take a disproportionate number of the best jobs and that employers tend to disproportionately employ graduates who went to private schools and elite universities.

Nearly 100 employers from 17 sectors, who collectively employ just under 1 million people, submitted entries about their practices and procedures in areas such as work with young people, recruitment, selection and progression.

The final rankings (listed below) were decided by a panel of experts and all firms will receive a report with recommendations for areas for improvement.

Key findings include:

1] Firms are now increasingly asking both new and current employees about their social background. Four in 10 ask the type of school attended (41%); a quarter ask if an employee received free school meals (26%); 39% ask if employees were the first in their family to go to university; around 1 in 10 ask about parental occupation (7%) and the postcode where an employee grew up (11%).

2] Just under 1 in 5 of these firms (17%) now set social mobility targets as part of their business strategy.

3] The firms collectively scored the highest on their work with young people, providing outreach activities for over 663,000 young people, nearly 10,000 work experience placements and over 5,000 mentors. But they score lowest on helping people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to progress in the workplace.

4] Nearly three-quarters of the organisations (72%) are offering apprenticeships, but 77% are at levels 2 and 4 (GCSE or A level equivalent) which have been shown to offer lower returns for the apprentices.

5] 96% of firms say they accept degrees from any university, but 61% of successful applicants attended one of the country’s most selective 24 universities (despite making up just 42% of the applications).

6] 11 Russell Group universities are visited by employers more than all the other UK universities combined and these 11 are all in the 20% of universities with the lowest percentage of state school students in the country.

7] Oxford and Cambridge are visited more than 118 other institutions combined. Some firms still take 100% of their recruits from the most selective universities.

David Johnston, Chief Executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, said:

“All the top 50 firms in the Social Mobility Employer Index should be applauded for the progress they are making towards ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get in and get on – regardless of their background.

“While no one firm has cracked the issue and there is still progress to be made, they should be congratulated both for having prioritised social mobility and for being prepared to have their processes and practices independently scrutinised.”

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, added:

“Improving the UK’s dismal social mobility record requires new action by employers and not just governments. It is very welcome that more employers are changing their workforce strategies to ensure they don’t lose out on talented people from less privileged backgrounds.

“The top 50 are paving the way and I thank them for their efforts. Where they are leading, I hope others will follow.

The annual publication of this index aims to shine a light on how and where progress is being made. Employers that have employees at all levels from a rich variety of social backgrounds are better placed to meet the demands and uncertainties of today’s world.

“Social mobility is good for employers. And employers can make a major contribution to creating a more mobile society.”

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman for the City of London Corporation said:

“These firms have shown real ambition in their approach to tackling social mobility. They are leading the way in removing the barriers which are holding back the best and brightest candidates in our society.

“Statistics show that people from more prosperous backgrounds, who attend private schools and elite universities, often take a disproportionate number of the best jobs.

“But more companies are making progress on social mobility, casting the net wider in the search for talent and recognising that a level playing field is in the best interests for all businesses.

“The index is an effective incentive to UK businesses to demonstrate the progress they are making in this vital area.”

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