Wednesday 15 September 2021 1:16 pm

PwC: 80 per cent of Big Four’s staff hail from higher socio-economic class

Less than 15 per cent of the Big Four’s workforce come from a lower socio-economic background, according to data published by the accountant for the first time today.

Staff from a higher socio-economic background, on the other hand, make up over four-fifths of the workforce at PwC UK, which was named the top employer for social mobility in the Social Mobility Foundation’s Employer Index for the last two years.

The median pay gap between staff, including partners, from higher and lower socio-economic classes was 12.1 per cent, making it greater than that of the black or gender pay gaps.

Only the disability pay gap, which was also included by the accountant for the first time, was wider than PwC’s class pay gap.

The Big Four company used the job of an employee’s highest earning parent as the measure of their socio-economic background, a method the company said was recognised by the Social Mobility Council.

The figures were released, alongside reports on gender and ethnicity pay gaps, as part of the firm’s annual report for 2021.

Although 80 per cent of PwC’s UK staff shared their socio-economic backgrounds with their employer, the level of disclosure fell short when compared with gender and ethnicity disclosure levels of 100 per cent and 97 per cent respectively.

“Improving access to opportunity and striving towards a society where a person’s career is based on their potential and not their background remains a priority for PwC, and for me personally,” said Kevin Ellis, PwC UK chairman and senior partner, in a statement.

Commenting on the timing of the report, which comes shortly on the heels of rival KPMG’s new target for 29 per cent of its partners and directors to hail from working class backgrounds by 2030, Ellis said: “The pandemic has highlighted, and in many cases increased, the inequalities existing within our society so we believe now is the right time to expand on the data we collect and publish.”

He acknowledged that PwC has “more work to do on our action plan,” but added that: “publishing this data will help shine a light on areas for focus and widen the gate further for those wishing to join PwC.”

As part of its action plan to improve the 12.1 per cent pay gap identified, PwC said it had created a paid work experience programme specifically for year 12 students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

PwC is not the first big four firm to make data on its socio-economic pay gap public though.

Last week KPMG published the details of a survey of 70 per cent of its UK partners and staff which showed that staff from working class backgrounds were often paid 8.6 per cent less than those with parents in “higher managerial, administrative and professional” jobs.