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Social Mobility Employer Index

The Index is an important bench-marking initiative that 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.

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.

On the 11th July 2018 we published the second Social Mobility Employer Index, highlighting the 50 employers taking the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace. You can see the Top 50 here and the press release accompanying the publication can be read below.

The Key Findings report for the 2018 Index can be read here.

Please click here to be added to the mailing list for the 2019 Index. The 2019 Index will open for submissions in January 2019, with an expected closing date in May 2019.


Top 50 UK employers for social mobility revealed

*Social diversity now a priority for 3 in 4 employers surveyed*

*Majority of employers of 1.1 million people now ask new staff questions about their background*

The Top 50 UK employers who have taken the most action on social mobility in the workplace are announced today in what is believed to be the world’s only Social Mobility Employer Index.

The Index is the creation of the Social Mobility Foundation and is published in partnership with sponsors the City of London Corporation. It 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 it finds having a workforce that is diverse in terms of social background is fast becoming as important to employers as being diverse in terms of gender and race.

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 and free of charge survey that assesses employers across seven areas, including the work they do with young people, their recruitment and selection processes and how people from lower income backgrounds progress within their organisations.

Over 100 employers from 18 sectors, who collectively employ over one million people, entered the 2018 Index. Entrants included banks, law firms, Government departments, engineering firms, retail firms and technology companies.

Over 11,000 people also took part in a voluntary employee survey.

The top 15 employers named in the Index Top 50 (full list below) are KPMG UK LLP, Grant Thornton UK, Ministry of Justice, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Deloitte, PwC, EY, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Civil Service Fast Stream and Early Talent, Baker McKenzie, Linklaters LLP, J.P. Morgan, Aviva PLC and Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC.

The final rankings are listed here, with all participating employers receiving a report with recommendations of areas for improvement.

Key findings include:

  • 74% of respondents to a question about client priorities said they feel their clients now care about the socio-economic diversity of their organisation’s workforce – close to those saying race (77%) and gender (86%). Even when organisations who did not answer the question are included, 48% of all Index organisations said socio-economic background compared to 50% saying race and 56% saying gender.
  • A majority ask their new employees whether or not their parents went to university (53%) or the type of school they attended (51%); 4 in 10 also ask their current employees these questions. Nearly 30% ask whether or not you were eligible for Free School Meals, whilst 12% ask the occupations of your parents and the postcode you grew up in
  • Birmingham and Warwick universities were visited by participating employers more than Oxford this year, with significant increases in visits to other universities in large cities as employers try to find more diverse undergraduates.
  • Overall the percentage of visits made to Russell Group universities by this year’s Index entrants was 56%, compared to 70% last year (with a decrease from 69% to 59% in the visits by employers entering the Index both years). Oxford and Cambridge are still visited more than 75 universities combined but this is down from over 110 universities combined in the 2017 Index
  • Significant changes are being made to recruitment processes at top employers:
    • 42% of the employers analyse their recruitment process to see where those from lower socio-economic groups fall down
    • 1 in 4 now remove the candidate’s name from the application/screening stage of recruitment and 1 in 5 remove the university attended in an effort to avoid these affecting shortlisting decisions
    • 27% put the grades of the candidates applying to them in the context of the academic performance of the school or college the applicant attended
    • 1 in 5 sets social mobility targets and 1 in 5 also now monitors how employees from lower socio-economic groups progress within their organisation
    • 44% encourage firms in their supply chains to take action on social mobility
    • The participating employers run extensive outreach and apprenticeship programmes, collectively reaching: 3,125,086 young people through outreach, 21,764 through work experience and 8,468 through mentoring; collectively they ran activity in every social mobility ‘cold spot’ identified by the Social Mobility Commission.

But whilst huge efforts are being made, challenges remain:

  • There are wide disparities in recruitment practices: in government departments/agencies 5 in 10 hires are from Russell Group universities; in professional service firms it is 6 in 10 hires; whilst at law firms more than 8 in 10 hires come from Russell Group universities, with some law firms hiring over 90% from these universities even where only half of their applicants come from the institutions
  • The employee survey of over 11,000 employees found only 59% of those who identify as working class think their class background has not held them back in their workplace, compared to 77% of those who identify as middle class. 16% of the working class respondents feel they need to hide their class background in the workplace. (further results in point 5 of Notes)
  • Those from private schools remain over-represented at all levels in most of the UK’s leading firms

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

“We have been very impressed by the efforts employers are making to ensure their organisation is open to talent from all backgrounds. We can really see organisations taking a whole host of actions to try and ensure that they have a diverse workforce in terms of socio-economic background as well as in terms of gender and race; they in turn are benefitting from accessing a much wider talent pool than they have traditionally recruited from. All entrants should be praised for broadening their approach.”

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

“Improving the UK’s social mobility record requires action by employers and the Index is creating a real momentum. Many leading businesses are showing real ambition in their approach to tackling the UK’s social mobility problem and it is important that firms continue to prioritise this area to help remove the barriers holding back the best and brightest in our society.

Giving young people experience of the work environment and helping them gain skills can boost their career prospects and open up a wide pool of talent for businesses. Everyone has the right to a good career regardless of background and we must remove hurdles for young people who have the talent, but may lack the network of guidance, support and connections to get ahead. They are the future workforce which will make sure that the UK prospers in the long term.

Sir Nick Clegg, Chairman of Social Mobility Foundation, said:

“I’m delighted that so many organisations chose to participate in the Social Mobility Index this year. Improving social mobility across society is a collective endeavour – with Government, schools, colleges, universities, families and businesses all pulling in the same direction.

This year’s Index shows that there is a growing appetite for employers to play their part – I warmly congratulate all those who did so, and I hope they will be joined by more employers in next year’s Index.”

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

“There is a mood for change in the nation. As the Index shows, social mobility is becoming a cause for more and more of our country’s top employers.  It is welcome that they are stepping up to the plate.  They are making these changes both because they see the social need to do so and because they recognise the business benefit that greater diversity can bring.”

Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds:

“I want Britain to be a country that works for everyone, with the same opportunities available for all, regardless of background or circumstance. We all have a role to play in building that society – but education is key to ensuring people have the knowledge and the skills they need to make the most of their potential.

“This government is improving education for every child by raising standards in schools and we have seen the attainment gap between the most disadvantaged children and their peers narrow by 10% in both primary and secondary school.  We’re also improving the careers advice available to young people so they can choose the right job for them, reforming apprenticeships and technical education to give young people genuine choice and more opportunities to succeed in later life.

“Employers are also a vital part of this mission and the Social Mobility Employers Index celebrates those businesses that are tearing down barriers to opportunity and tapping into the rich pool of talent that exists across our country. I would urge everyone to look at the organisations topping this index and ask themselves ‘what can I learn from them?’.”


For further information, please contact:

Sally Weatherall at Social Mobility Foundation on

0207 183 1189 / 07917 223 375

Kristina Drake at City of London Corporation on

07710 860 884


  • The Social Mobility Employer Index was developed in consultation with, and following feedback from social mobility experts and major employers. Employers entering the Index did so free of charge and voluntarily. To enter, they had to answer questions about actions they are taking in at least one of the following sections:
  • working with young people – well-evaluated programmes that reach beyond the doorstep of the office to all of the country’s talent, and which provide routes into the employer/profession for those that have the interest and aptitude
  • routes into work – well-structured non-graduate routes that provide genuine parity of esteem and comparable progression to graduate ones
  • attraction – innovative ways of reaching beyond graduates of the usual five to ten universities many top employers focus their efforts on
  • recruitment and selection – evidence that the employer removes hurdles that will disproportionately affect those from lower socio-economic groups and is moving to a system that judges potential rather than past academic performance or polish
  • data collection – rigorous analysis of the profile of the workforce and of measures taken to improve its diversity
  • progression – effective strategies that help those from lower socio-economic groups get on rather than just get in
  • internal/external advocacy – action to get more of their staff involved in efforts to improve social mobility and to get suppliers/peer firms to also take action
  • The submissions were marked using a strict mark scheme and the list of scores was then benchmarked both within the same sector and across different employment sectors. In targeting sectors that have sometimes been identified as needing to improve their socio-economic diversity, the Index recognises that process often has to be introduced before progress can be made and does not punish employers for starting from a low base, but rather rewards them for taking significant action to improve this. The top 50 are thus those taking the most action on social mobility and not the 50 that are already the most representative of the country at large.
  • Employers had the option to enter anonymously to receive feedback on their strategies; if they finished in the top 50 they then had the choice of whether to remain anonymous.
  • This year there was also a voluntary employee survey that employers could participate in, which included 8 questions about the culture of their workplace. 35 employers participated in this and we received 11,359 responses; 5,661 identified themselves as working class and 5,333 as middle class, with 116 identifying themselves as upper class.
  • Those who identify as working class are less likely to: think their organisation is open to all class backgrounds (74% vs 81%); to discuss their class background (77% vs 82%); or to feel that the senior leadership of their organisation wants to diversify the class backgrounds of their organisation’s staff (50% vs 58%)
  • Conversely, those who are working class are more likely to think people get ahead in their workplace because of who they know (48% vs 39%) and to feel out of place because of their background (15% vs 6%)
  • 106 employers from 18 different sectors entered the Index in 2018; 38 entered the Index for the first time. Collectively the entrants employ 1.063 million people in the UK.
  • Both the development of the Index and the benchmarking is supported by an advisory group whose membership has representatives from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, the Bridge Group, Royal Holloway University and Stonewall.
  • For further information about the Index, please visit

 The Social Mobility Foundation

 The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) is a charity which aims to make practical improvement in social mobility for young people from low-income backgrounds.

It runs free of charge programmes of mentoring, internships, university application support (including trips to universities and help with personal statements, aptitude tests and interviews) and career and skills workshops to support young people through their sixth-form and university years.

Currently taking on a new cohort of over 1600 young people every year, the SMF has offices in Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle and runs residential programmes for young people from the Isle of Wight to the Western Isles of Scotland across 11 career sectors (Accountancy, Architecture, Banking & Finance, Biology & Chemistry, Business, Engineering & Physics, Law, Media & Communications, Medicine, Politics, and Technology).

The City of London Corporation

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK.

  • We employ over 100 apprentices in a diverse range of jobs across the capital, supported by the Apprenticeship Levy
  • We sponsor or co-sponsor 10 academies across Hackney, Newham, Islington and Southwark. In 2017, Sutton Trust named the City Corporation as the UK’s best academy sponsor for empowering pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to perform above the national average, and the leading academy sponsor for Progress 8 and Attainment 8, which track pupil progress and achievement.
  • We are sponsoring the Social Mobility Employers’ Index to encourage businesses to increase the socio-economic diversity of their workforce
  • We support SMEs to make use of the apprenticeship levy to increase diversity and support businesses to access skills
  • We deliver a Leaders of Tomorrow programme for future City business leaders to enable them to respond to the social, economic, political, technological challenges that are impacting on trust in business
  • We celebrate businesses that are tackling social issues through the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards
  • We fund Heart of the City a responsible business network to support SMEs to put the foundations of responsible business practice in place