Seven professional services firms offering top social mobility in UK

12 November 2020 4 min. read

A new ranking of UK employers has revealed that some of the professional services sector’s biggest players offer recruits the best opportunities for social mobility in the country. According to the Social Mobility Employer Index, PwC, Grant Thornton, KPMG, JLL, Accenture, Capgemini and FDM Group lead the way.

The class divisions of British society run deep – and despite more working class students going to university than ever before, the same jobs are largely populated by the same social groups as they have been for decades. This year, research from the Social Mobility Foundation has found that despite slow progress in recent years, a number of recruitment and retainment policies are still entrenching such inequality in the workplace of the UK’s largest companies. 

At present, despite Government focus on ‘levelling up,’ only 36% of businesses have setting social mobility targets within their organisation. At the same time, just 11% of businesses track if they have a class pay gap, despite the Social Mobility Commission having found that staff from working class background face a 7% pay gap in Britain’s professional and managerial occupations, in contrast to their peers from better-off backgrounds.

While 85% of respondents to the Social Mobility Employer Index said their clients “care about the social class mix of their workforce,” there is also a worrying suggestion that many would rather obscure their policies on the matter than change them. Many businesses are shirking transparency, with only 29% of entrants publishing socio-economic background data on their workforce.

Meanwhile, tech companies have seen profits soar during the remote working of Covid-19, while the combined post-tax profits of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have grown by $39 billion during Covid-19 – yet according to the same study, none of them are among the top companies for social mobility.

Commenting on the findings, Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation, said, “As the Covid-19 crisis continues and the UK descends into a sharp recession, avoiding a jobs catastrophe for young people must become a priority for all large employers. Already 60% of the jobs that have been lost since the pandemic began have been among 18–24-year olds.”

“It is incumbent on government and business to ensure that young people are not its social and economic victims. Those businesses who have benefitted most financially from Covid-19 have the biggest duty to give back. The tech giants in particular need to take urgent action to put social mobility on their agendas.”

In order to help push for important changes regarding social mobility, and celebrate the performance of firms bucking this trend while sharing their best practices with other employers, the Social Mobility Foundation runs an annual Top 75 ranking of UK employers. The list of British organisations commends a diverse range of entities for their efforts on the matter – but arguably more importantly in recent years, it is also a reflection of the growing number of groups now taking social mobility seriously.

Once again in 2020, the list has been peppered with professional services firms. According to the Index’s list of 75 organisations, the three best for social mobility all come from the audit and advisory sector. These include PwC – which tops the ranking for the second year running– as well as Grant Thornton and KPMG close behind. Also on the ranking were property consultancy JLL, IT services giants Accenture and Capgemini, and London headquartered professional services firm FDM Group.

PwC, Grant Thornton, KPMG, JLL, Accenture, Capgemini and FDM Group

A statement from PwC listed explained that this year the company adapted the ways it supports social mobility in the wake of Covid-19. By responding quickly PwC was able to mitigate some of the impact the crisis could have on its employees, new starters, apprentices and potential hires. PwC were quick to create accessible, virtual alternatives that delivered similar experiences and benefits as in person programmes, and filled support gaps created by the crisis in skills training, career development, recruitment and mental health support.

Laura Hinton, Chief People Officer at PwC UK, said, “Improving social mobility isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes sound business sense too - creating a diverse workforce that reflects the communities we work in. We’re proud of the steps we’ve taken as part of our five point plan.  Social mobility has also been core to our pandemic response, such as providing virtual skills support to communities and making sure all our employees can access a safe space to work.”