PRH among top UK businesses taking action on social mobility

PRH among top UK businesses taking action on social mobility

Penguin Random House (PRH) has been ranked among the top 50 UK employers to have "taken the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace".

According to the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF), The Social Mobility Employer Index 2018 ranks UK employers across seven areas including the work they do with young people, their recruitment and selection processes and how people from lower income backgrounds progress within their organisations, benchmarking the scores within the same sector.

PRH took 39th place in the 2018 index, which published on Wednesday (11th July) in partnership with sponsors the City of London Corporation. Altogether 100 employers from 18 sectors entered.

With other entrants including banks, law firms, government departments, engineering firms, retail firms and technology companies, top spots went to KPMG UK LLP, ranked number one, Grant Thornton UK, ranked number two, and the Ministry of Justice, ranked number three. The SMC said it "does not punish employers for starting from a low base, but rather rewards them for taking significant action to improve this", adding "the top 50 are thus those taking the most action on social mobility and not the 50 that are already the most representative of the country at large".

Val Garside, HR director of Penguin Random House UK, said she was delighted by the company's efforts to become more inclusive had been recognised. 

Over the past few years, PRH's work to make its workforce more representative of society has included removing the need for a university degree from all jobs; providing 450 paid two-week work experience placements every year, as part of which it offers subsidised accommodation for candidates joining the company from outside London in partnership with The Book Trade Charity; increasing the pay of eight-week summer internships to the London Living Wage; offering paid 6-month editorial traineeships for BAME and socio-economically marginalised candidates with The Scheme; running JobHack, a series of interactive careers workshops for 18-25 year olds around the country, focusing on areas of low social mobility and loaning staff the cost of a rental deposit via a Home Sweet Loan scheme.

"Great talent can come from anywhere and having diverse teams that reflect a variety of backgrounds and communities means hearing different voices, ideas and perspectives," said Garside. "For too long publishing has struggled to attract and retain people from different backgrounds. We’re working hard to change this - and I’m delighted that the efforts of so many people in our organisation to become a more inclusive employer has gained this recognition."

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, former chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said: "There is a mood for change in the nation. As the Index shows, social mobility is becoming a cause for more and more of our country's top employers. It is welcome that they are stepping up to the plate. They are making these changes both because they see the social need to do so and because they recognise the business benefit that greater diversity can bring."

Although SMC found social diversity was now a priority for three in four employers, a voluntary employee survey completed by over 11,000 people found that "challenges remain". In particular it remarked on wide disparities in recruitment processes, evidenced by Russell Group university graduates accounting for 5 in 10 hires in government departments, 6 in 10 in professional services firms and 8 in 10 in law firms. Oxford and Cambridge Universities are meanwhile still visited more by Index entrants for recruitment purposes than 75 universities combined (down from 110 universities combined last year). Those from private schools remain "over-represented at all levels in most of the UK's leading firms", it said.

The findings follow a report published in April that highlighted a "class pay gap" in publishing of up to £23,000 a year and found that people of working class origins make up just 12.6% of the sector.