Business leads the way on social mobility in biggest-ever Social Mobility Employer Index while government is  urged to follow suit and demonstrate commitment to levelling up

 Today, UK charity the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) launches its fifth annual Employer Index: a national study examining how companies and organisations are driving social mobility within their workplace. Submissions have reached a record high this year with 203 participating employers (up from 119 in 2020).

Alongside the launch of the Index, the SMF’s Chair, Rt Hon. Alan Milburn, urged the UK Government to prioritise social mobility within its levelling-up agenda, arguing that people and place are the two critical aspects where opportunities must improve.

Law firm Browne Jacobson LLP topped the employer ranking, followed by consultancy KPMG and Herbert Smith Freehills LLP. Accounting firm Grant Thornton and financial service provider Severn Trent placed fourth and fifth. MI5 and GCHQ are new entrants and feature alongside returning MI6 and government departments, MoJ, MoD and FCDO.

The businesses and organisations represented in the Index are leading the way on social mobility. Over five years there has been positive progress such as ring-fencing internships for young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (58% of participating employers – a five-year high); addressing organisational social mobility strategy at a board level (20%, up from 10% in 2020); and 49% of all organisations work with their clients to improve social mobility through the supply chain – the highest percentage in the past four years. Over 5.42 million students benefited from school outreach by 115 organisations last year.

The SMF is calling on the government to work with employers to drive change improve opportunities in social mobility cold spots, and boosting opportunities for poorer students who are, on average, seven months behind their better-off peers in the classroom due to the pandemic.

Rt Hon. Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Foundation, said, “The pandemic has exposed the new geography of disadvantage in Britain and, through disruption in the classroom, exam hall and workplace, created serious barriers to young people’s opportunities. If older people have been on the health frontline of the pandemic it is the young who seem doomed to suffer the biggest economic and social consequences.

Employer-led social mobility will be vital in bridging the divide and delivering the levelling up agenda. All of the employers represented in the Index are showing that it is possible to create a society where it is not background or birth but aptitude and ability that dictate progress in life. They are providing it is possible to build back better. If we are to rescue the fraying promise of a meritocratic society, then more employers must join them and government must follow suit in taking targeted action to address social mobility”.


Sarah Atkinson, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, said: Congratulations to all the businesses who submitted this year – especially the 38 firms who have participated in all five years of the Index. It is encouraging that the extremely challenging circumstances of the pandemic has not deterred these firms from prioritising social mobility. It is right that they have done so. Government cannot go it alone when levelling up; indeed, the Index shows businesses and organisations are leading the way instead. Opportunity creation for the next generation, especially those from less well-off backgrounds, must be prioritised in the years ahead. As ever, we stand ready to support employers of all sizes in their social mobility journey.”


The Index Key Findings Report will be published on the SMF website on 24 November, 00:01am. Submissions for the 2022 Index will open early next year.