Legal practices and organisations feature prominently in the 2020 Employer Index published by the Social Mobility Foundation, taking 28 places in its Top 75.
Now in its fourth year, the index charts the UK employers who have taken the most action on social mobility in the workplace. Created by the Social Mobility Foundation, a charity which aims to make a practical improvement in social mobility for young people, it ranks the UK's employers on the actions they are taking to access and progress talent from all backgrounds.
This year 119 employers, employing over 1.1m people in the UK across 18 different sectors, took part, answering around 100 questions across seven key areas.
Legal practices with a Scottish base who achieved a ranking included Brodies at 24, Pinsent Masons at 30, Shoosmiths at 38, Burgees Salmon at 39, DWF at 40, CMS at 41, Shepherd & Wedderburn at 52 and TLT at 68.
PwC retained its position as the UK’s number one social mobility employer, having demonstrated continuous improvement over the past year. The top legal firms overall were Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner at 4, Browne Jacobson at 5 and Herbert Smith Freehills at 7.
In compiling the index, questions directed at employers assess them across seven areas: their work with young people, routes into the employer, the attraction of staff, recruitment and selection, data collection, progression of staff and experienced hires and advocacy. An employee survey adds qualitative insights and contextualises the data provided. Employers are then benchmarked against one another based on the results.
The 2020 Index also finds that despite the Government focus on levelling up, only 36% of businesses are setting social mobility targets within their organisation, despite 85% of respondents feeling that their clients care about the social class mix of their workforce. None of the tech giants – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook – which have seen profits soar during the lockdown, entered the Index.
Further, only 29% of entrants to the index publish socio-economic background data on their workforce, and in law, a sector where the Foundation has received "significant submissions" for four years, "there appears to be an unwillingness to recruit outside of Russell Group universities", 84% of legal firms' graduate intake being from a Russell Group university.
However, a positive for the Foundation is that employers are investing more heavily in employee development, with 48% of organisations offering buddying and mentoring support (up from 30% in 2019) and networks of employees from similar backgrounds up at 40% (from 26% in 2019). "This work could be enhanced by diversity awareness training with a focus on social mobility", the Foundation observes.
Chair Alan Milburn commented: "It is welcome that more and more UK businesses are stepping up to the social mobility plate. Their efforts are changing lives for tens of thousands of our country’s young people.
"But more must be done. 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. While older people have been the principal health victims of COVID-19, it is incumbent on government and business to ensure that young people are not its social and economic victims."