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Top 75 UK employers for social mobility revealed

*23 employers enter the top list for the first time – including MI6*

*85% feel their clients care about the social class mix of their workforce*

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

The Top 75 UK employers in 2019 who have taken the most action on social mobility in the workplace are announced today. They include banks, engineering firms, law firms, government departments, retailers – and MI6, the first time one of Britain’s intelligence agencies has entered the list.

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. It highlights the employers doing the most to change the way they find, recruit and progress talented employees from different social class backgrounds.

Employers who employ over 1.1 million people in the UK across 18 different sectors took part in this year’s Index, answering around 100 questions across 7 key areas.

The full 75 are listed here. The highest ranked employer by key areas include:

  • Overall – PwC
  • Banking – J.P. Morgan
  • Engineering – Arup
  • Government dept – Ministry of Justice
  • Insurance – Aviva
  • Law – Baker McKenzie
  • IT & Telecomms – Capgemini
  • Publishing – Penguin Random House
  • Property/real estate – JLL
  • Media – BBC
  • Retail – Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • Utilities – Severn Trent

Findings from the Index include:

  • 85% of respondents to a question about client priorities 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%)*
  • A majority of employers ask their new employees whether or not their parents went to university (51%) or the type of school they attended (53%).
  • Nearly 40% ask whether or not you were eligible for Free School Meals, whilst almost 20% ask the postcode you grew up in and 17% the occupation of your parents.
  • Over 30% of employers now remove the name, university and/or school grades of candidates when reviewing applications

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 on how much they are trying to change this across seven areas.

This year’s Index shows the growth of employers who care about being diverse in terms of social class as well as being diverse in other areas such as gender and race/ethnicity. It finds a wide-ranging set of changes are taking place in how employers work with young people, design their recruitment/selection processes, the data they collect and their strategies for retaining employees from different backgrounds.

Other key findings include:

  • 42% of employers monitor their recruitment process to see where those from lower socio-economic backgrounds fall down
  • Nearly 40% of employers have assessed whether their organisation’s culture is welcoming to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds
  • 1 in 4 put the grades of the candidates applying to them in the context of the academic performance of the school or college the applicant attended
  • 28% have social mobility targets

But there is still more progress required:

  • 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).
  • Whilst 45% of applications to all Index employers come from the 24 Russell Group universities, 62% of hires do; at law firms, 84% of hires do. These figures are largely unchanged in 3 years despite employers making fewer visits to Russell Group universities overall
  • Only 22% of 2019 entrants publish their socio-economic background data compared to 27% in 2018
  • Over 80% of employers do not monitor progression within their organisation by socio-economic background
  • Only 36% encourage firms in their supply chains to take action on social mobility

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

“We are delighted to see more and more employers every year taking part in our Social Mobility Employer Index. 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.”

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation, said:
“Social mobility is becoming a cause for more and more of our country’s top employers. When politics is weak, society needs to be strong – so it is welcome a growing number of employers are stepping up to the plate. They recognise the need to open their doors to a wider pool of talent both to address growing public concerns about unfairness and to reap the business benefits from having more diverse workforces. The onus is now on all of our country’s top employers to do the same.”

*Some entrants did not answer the question about client priorities. If they are included in the overall figures, 63% of all Index organisations said socio-economic background compared to 71% saying race and 74% saying gender

For further information, please contact:

Emily Hodgson at Social Mobility Foundation on

0207 183 1189 / 07515 007 655


  • 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, culture and experienced hires – 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 75 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 75 they then had the choice of whether to remain anonymous.
  • 125 employers from 18 different sectors entered the Index in 2019; 36 entered the Index for the first time. Collectively the entrants employ over 1.1 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 1700 young people every year, the SMF has offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, 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, Digital, Engineering & Physics, Law, Media & Communications, Medicine and Politics).

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