PwC tops list for action on social mobility

PwC and KPMG have come top of a list of 75 leading UK employers who have done the most to promote social mobility in the workplace

Big Four firm PwC came top of the ranking, followed by KPMG ranked second, Deloitte sixth, and mid-tier firms Mazars and Grant Thornton also feature.

The index is the creation of the Social Mobility Foundation and ranks the UK’s employers on the actions they are taking to ensure they are open to accessing and progressing talent from all backgrounds.

This year 125 employers from 18 sectors were considered for the top 75 rankings.

PwC was placed first overall, scoring highly for its work to increase the variety of routes for people of all backgrounds into the firm, engaging with a wide range of schools and universities across the country and, specifically, for providing both employment and schools outreach in Bradford - a government identified social mobility opportunity area. 

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC UK, said: ‘As a large employer, we have an opportunity to drive positive change for our people and the communities we work with across the country.

‘Good progress has been made but there is still much more to be done. Many businesses are doing fantastic work on social mobility, and we will continue to collaborate with others to have the biggest impact and ensure that someone’s future is determined by their talent and determination, not by their background.’

Second on the list was KPMG, with Deloitte in sixth place, Grant Thornton placed eighth, and Mazars at number 14. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is at number 23, while the Treasury is ranked at 43 and HMRC at 50.

As part of KPMG’s commitment to Access Accountancy, the firm delivered over 160 work experience placements in 2018/19 through its 'discovery programme', for students from low socio-economic backgrounds. In 2018, over half of discovery participants applied for a role following their placement, with close to 50% of these students offered an apprenticeship.

Anna Purchas, head of people, at KPMG UK said: ‘Being recognised as a leading employer in the Social Mobility Employer Index is a huge achievement and will spur us on to do even more to drive forward this agenda at every level in our business.

‘For us, social mobility is an integral part of our future and our commitment to recruiting and developing the most talented. From our outreach and volunteering work with schools, to the recruitment and progression opportunities for our people we strive to remove any barriers that could prevent someone from entering or reaching their full potential in our profession.’

Others on the list include banks, engineering firms, law firms, government departments, retailers  and MI6, the first time one of the UK’s intelligence agencies has entered the rankings.

David Johnston, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, said: ‘The quality of submissions this year meant we have increased the size of our top list from 50 to 75 and it shows the very wide range of organisations trying to make progress on social mobility.

‘Whilst no employer would say they have cracked their social mobility challenge, all of the employers in the top list – along with those that didn’t quite make it – should be congratulated for the efforts they’re making to ensure their organisation is open to talent from all class backgrounds.’

Dominance of affluent

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 a small number of universities.

The social mobility employer index is a voluntary survey that assesses employers on how much they are trying to change this across seven areas. These are: working with young people; routes into work; outreach; recruitment and selection; data collection; progression, culture and experienced hires; and internal/external advocacy.

The majority (85%) of respondents said they feel their clients want them to be diverse in terms of socio-economic background, very close to those saying race (96%) and gender (99%).

Half ask new employees whether or not their parents went to university (51%) or the type of school they attended (53%), while over 30% of employers now remove the name, university and/or school grades of candidates when reviewing applications.

The responses also show 42% of employers monitor their recruitment process to see where those from lower socio-economic backgrounds fall down, and nearly 40% have assessed whether their organisation’s culture is welcoming to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. A quarter (28%) have social mobility targets.

 However, the survey also found Oxford and Cambridge are still visited by index entrants more than 72 universities combined (although this has fallen from 2017 when they were visited more than 110 universities combined).

While 45% of applications to all index employers come from the 24 Russell Group universities, almost two thirds (62%) of hires do, rising to 84% at law firms. These figures are largely unchanged in three years despite employers making fewer visits to Russell Group universities overall.

Additionally, over 80% of employers do not monitor progression within their organisation by socio-economic background and only 36% encourage firms in their supply chains to take action on social mobility.

Sharon Spice, director of global student recruitment at ICAEW said: ‘This report shows accountancy is open to all and firms are working incredibly hard to encourage a more diverse group of applicants to their business. This includes offering a variety of routes into the profession to ensure they have something for everyone.

‘The next challenge is to focus on how we prepare individuals who most need it for the recruitment process itself, so their ability, character and attitude shines through…we know there is more work to do to make sure our profession reflects the diverse communities we serve.’

Social Mobility Employer Index

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