Accountancy firm KPMG has today announced that it will set a target for 29% of its partners and directors to come from working-class backgrounds by 2030. When the Social Mobility Commission has highlighted that those from a privileged background are 60% more likely to be in a professional job than those from a working-class background, this is certainly welcome news.

Whilst targets will never on their own be sufficient to increase the diversity and inclusivity of a workforce, they do acknowledge that there is a problem which needs to be addressed. Social mobility in the UK is very clearly a problem and, as I said in my blog this week, one which will be exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. With this in mind, it is concerning to me that KPMG is one of few large employers to have publicly taken this step. The question arises as to why this is. It may be that steps are already being taken internally and have not been shared. However, it may also be that there is a lack of awareness of the relevant issues, which is compounded by unconscious bias.

In my view, the best way to ensure social mobility issues are given the weight they deserve is through legislative reform. Not only is there a strong argument for socio-economic background to be recognised as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act, but there is also an argument for a legal requirement on businesses to report on the socio-economic backgrounds of their employees and any associated pay gap. To me, the Government should be considering these arguments as a matter of priority.

However, in the meantime, the onus is on employers to educate themselves as to the barriers individuals from working-class backgrounds may face and train staff to recognise these issues when recruiting and managing. It is only by acknowledging that people come from very different starting points and may not have had access to the same opportunities that businesses can work towards ensuring equality.

I will wait with interest to hear KPMG’s further updates on the steps they are taking to achieve their targets. However, in my view, today’s announcement raises as many questions as answers.

If you would value a discussion on social mobility in your organisation then please do get in touch.