Monday 24 October 2016 11:44 am

Banks, law firms and accountants to be ranked on social mobility success

Top City employers will be ranked on their progress in boosting social mobility and recruiting candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds, in a new government-backed scheme.

The Social Mobility Commission, a government body, and the Social Mobility Foundation, a charity, have teamed up to produce a new index of the country's biggest employers to assess their efforts in opening up industries which have typically been dominated by those from more privileged backgrounds.

Under the scheme, individual companies from "elite sectors … such as law, accountancy, media, banking and finance, and the sciences" will have their recruitment and employment procedures scrutinised and given individual feedback on they could improve. Categories which will feed in to the rankings include hiring procedures, along with other aspects such as how well firms engage in their communities and with supply chains, along with internal support and progression to help "those from lower socio-economic groups get on rather than just get in".

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If businesses give permission, their scores will then be made public so other firms, government, recruiters and candidates can assess how well companies and sectors are performing.

A report in 2014 from the Social Mobility Commission found top industries were still dominated by individuals who were educated at private school, raising fears that those without contacts, connections and a paid-for education could be locked out or face a tougher route into a top career. Seven in 10 senior judges were privately educated, along with more than half of senior civil servants and 44 per cent of media professionals. That compares to just seven per cent of the population as a whole who attended an independent school.

Business, by contrast, performs comparatively well on the rankings, with under one in four FTSE 350 chief executives coming from private schooling.

Alan Milburn, the government's social mobility tsar, said today: "Many top firms are doing excellent work in opening their doors to people from all social backgrounds. We want the index to herald a step change towards improving social mobility by encouraging many more employers to compete to recruit, and keep, the best and brightest candidates."

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The bodies insisted the new index would not be an exercise in "naming-and-shaming", and only the best employers, such as the top 50 or top 100 will be made public. David Johnston, chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation told City A.M. businesses across the city had been enthusiastic to the index, saying that the idea partly sprung from requests from businesses to find out how they are performing against their peers

A number of the City's leading employers, across finance, law and professional services have all lent their support to the project, he added, with the first set of rankings set to be published in Spring 2017.