Social mobility: new guidance published for UK employers

Out-Law News | 12 Feb 2020 | 5:22 pm | 2 min. read

New guidance has been published to help UK employers attract and retain workers from all social backgrounds and increase staff socioeconomic diversity.

The guidance (40-page / 1.36MB PDF) was produced on behalf of the government by the independent Social Mobility Commission (SMC). It makes practical recommendations for employers at every stage of the employment relationship, as well as around data collection and culture and leadership. The recommendations are split into 'developing', for employers considering social mobility issues for the first time, and 'optimising'.

Diversity and inclusion expert Helen Corden of Pinsent Masons said that: "Companies committed to improving diversity and inclusion within their workplaces should take note of this toolkit".

Corden Helen

Helen Corden

Partner

The toolkit contains useful practical guidance on how diversity data can be collected, which many companies are turning their attention to due to the impending introduction of ethnicity pay gap reporting.

"The toolkit contains useful practical guidance on how diversity data can be collected, which many companies are turning their attention to due to the impending introduction of ethnicity pay gap reporting," she said.

"It also explains in clear terms the benefits of having a socioeconomic diverse workforce and details practical steps on how this can be achieved. For example, through the appointment of a senior leader as a leading advocate for socioeconomic diversity and inclusion, board accountability, implementation of outreach programmes and changes to recruitment and progression practices," she said.

The guidance recommends that employers routinely ask jobseekers and employees voluntary, anonymised questions on social background, then use that information to monitor the fairness of their application, recruitment and promotion processes. The suggested questions focus on parental occupation at age 14; type of school attended at age 11-16; free school meal eligibility; and highest parental qualification.

Employers should appoint a senior individual to advocate for socioeconomic diversity and inclusion internally, and include discussion of socioeconomic diversity on the board agenda. Businesses should take an 'advocacy' role, sharing best practice with peers and publishing diversity data annually, and participate in industry specific events and national campaign designed to drive positive change.

Jobseekers and staff from all backgrounds should be supported at all stages of the employee journey, from outreach activities to hiring, progression and reward. Outreach activities should be chosen to maximise engagement with a wide range of prospective applicants, hiring practices should emphasise competence rather than qualifications and staff from graduate and non-graduate routes should have the similar opportunities to develop.

Deborah McCormack, head of early talent at Pinsent Masons, described the toolkit as a "fantastic" resource, with the potential to "spark and sustain business to business conversations about what we are all doing, should be doing, and could be doing in this area".

Deborah McCormack

Head of Early Talent, Pinsent Masons

No matter where your business is on its journey to improve diversity within the talent pool, the suggestions here are aspirational and stretching - so all businesses have something to aim for.

"With that in mind, publication of the toolkit is a golden opportunity to share examples of best practice, consider challenges and potentially to collaborate on joint initiatives with clients, professional regulators and third sector organisations," she said.

"Pleasingly, the toolkit is framed far more widely than just early talent. It's a resource which can and should be shared throughout an organisation including leadership teams, diversity steering groups, responsible business, HR and employment law functions. No matter where your business is on its journey to improve diversity within the talent pool, the suggestions here are aspirational and stretching - so all businesses have something to aim for," she said.

Publication of the toolkit coincided with the launch of the Department of Opportunities, the new campaign arm of the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) think tank led by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn. Its first campaign will focus on CVs and recruitment, with recommendations that employers remove applicant's names, universities and grades from application forms and make interview panellists more diverse.