Over a million employees covered by Justine Greening’s social mobility drive

69% of young people say Britain’s ‘class ceiling’ holds them back


Employers representing over a million workers have signed up to tackle Britain’s lack of social mobility.


The Social Mobility Pledge was founded in March by the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP and entrepreneur David Harrison to encourage companies to challenge the UK’s shamefully poor record on social mobility.


Organisations employing over one million people have since backed the initiative, committing themselves to taking on and progressing talent from all backgrounds. 


As Social Mobility Pledge-accredited employers, they will work with local schools and colleges, offer apprenticeships and adopt open recruitment policies such as name-blind or contextual recruitment. 


Employers who have signed up so far include John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, ITV, BT, Adidas, Penguin Random House and Thomas Cook. 


Corporations such as PwC, KPMG, EY, Aviva, Deloitte, Grant Thornton and True Potential are also on board – as well as other businesses representing a range of sectors, charities, sports clubs and membership organisations.    


The Pledge was launched by the Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, who left Government in January to continue her long-standing campaign for more social mobility in Britain.


The former Secretary of State for Education progressed to frontline politics on the back of a working-class upbringing in which she experienced unemployment in her own family, attended a comprehensive school in Rotherham and became the first member of her family to go to university. 


The Pledge is a response to Britain’s widespread lack of social mobility – the progress of individuals through the so-called ‘class ceiling’ or further in life than their parents.


In its 2017 ‘State of Social Mobility’ report, the Sutton Trust found that the UK is among the worst of the 37 OECD nations for income mobility.


The paper reports that only one in eight children from low-income backgrounds is likely to become a high-income earner as an adult. Sutton Trust research also shows that five elite schools send more pupils per year to Oxford and Cambridge than nearly 2,000 non-elite schools combined, or almost two thirds of the entire state secondary school sector.  


Meanwhile, a study of social mobility perceptions paints a bleak picture of Britain’s class ceiling. 


Of the 2,000 respondents to the research, carried out by the Social Mobility Pledge, 69% of those aged 18-24 think it is difficult or very difficult for a disadvantaged person in the UK to do well in later life. 


Sixty per cent of single parents with dependents under the age of 18 and 59% of adults with an elderly parent requiring care or supervision held the same view. 


Justine Greening MP says: “Where a person is born and brought up should not define how far they can progress in life but, in Britain, it invariably does. Solving our social mobility issue is pivotal to Britain’s success, and employers hold the key to doing so, through the opportunities they create and the people they choose to offer them to.


“It’s fantastic to see so many employees and sectors represented by the Pledge but there is more to do. I want to see a country in which talent and potential – and not upbringing or where a person is from – are the foremost considerations that determine how far you can go in life.”


Justine Greening set up the Social Mobility Pledge with David Harrison, founder of the Harrison Centre for Social Mobility and managing partner of True Potential – a UK fintech firm which employs 250 people in North East England.


The entrepreneur, who grew up in a County Durham pit village and went on to create what is now a £100m-turnover business, said: “Accent, upbringing and family connections with people at the top of organisations still unfairly influence recruitment and promotions in many workplaces. That has always struck me as unfair to employees and counter-productive to businesses. I had to battle against that tide when I was starting out, so I was determined to try to level the playing field for young people today.


“Social mobility benefits individuals, local communities, companies and the wider national economy. It really is time we caught up with the rest of the world on this issue.” 


For more information on the Social Mobility Pledge visit www.socialmobilitypledge.org


Matthew McPherson