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. Just one of the reasons, the Foundation is working to improve social mobility through our grant programme. 

Yesterday, the Top 50 UK employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace were announced, in what is believed to be the world’s first-ever Social Mobility Employer Index.

The Index is a joint initiative between the Foundation’s social mobility delivery partner – the Social Mobility Foundation – and the Social Mobility Commission, in partnership with the City of London Corporation. For the first time, it ranks Britain’s employers 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.

Nearly 100 employers from 17 sectors, who collectively employ just under one million people, submitted entries about their practices and procedures in areas such as work with young people, recruitment, selection and progression. The final rankings were decided by a panel of experts and all firms will receive a report with recommendations for areas for improvement.

Key findings include:

  • Firms are now increasingly asking both new and current employees about their social background: Four in 10 ask the type of school attended (41 per cent); a quarter ask if an employee received free school meals (26 per cent); 39 per cent ask if employees were the first in their family to go to university; around one in ten ask about parental occupation (7 per cent) and the postcode where an employee grew up (11 per cent).
  • Just under one in five of these firms (17 per cent) now set social mobility targets as part of their business strategy.
  • 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.
  • Nearly three quarters of the organisations (72 per cent) are offering apprenticeships, but 77 per cent are at Levels 2 and 3 (GCSE or A level equivalent) which have been shown to offer lower returns for the apprentices.
  • 96 per cent of firms say they accept degrees from any university, but 61 per cent of successful applicants attended one of the country’s most selective 24 universities (despite making up just 42 per cent of the applications).
  •  Just 11 Russell Group universities are visited by employers more than all the other UK universities combined and these 11 are all in the 20 per cent of universities with the lowest percentage of state school students in the country.
  •  Oxford and Cambridge are visited more than 118 other institutions combined. Some firms still take 100 per cent 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 top 10 firms named in the index top 50 are:

  • Grant Thornton UK LLP
  • Skanska UK PLC
  • Standard Life
  • Deloitte UK
  • JP Morgan
  • PwC
  • Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP
  • WM Morrisons Supermarkets Plc
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car
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