UK retail and services business The Co-operative has announced it is taking action to break what it describes as the ‘Class Ceiling’, as new research has found that a significant number of people believe that what they achieve in life is dictated by their background.
The research, carried out by ICM and conducted on behalf of Co-op surveyed over 8,500 people, looking at the experiences, life chances and impact of social mobility on young people and adults across the UK.
Nearly a fifth (17%) of UK adults believe they have missed out on a job due to their background, accent or social status, with a tenth (10%) revealing that they have been teased for their accent. As a result, a quarter (26%) have changed the way they look for a job interview and a tenth (11%) have changed the way they speak at work.
Over two-fifths (41%) of young people believe what they achieve in life is determined by their socio-economic background.
Making The Leap
Co-op undertook with Making The Leap, a grassroots social mobility charity, to capture the diversity of views and experiences of Lower Socio-economic Background (LSEB) individuals.
In light of the research, Co-op is introducing a nine-point business plan on social mobility, which includes creating an internal social mobility taskforce to work through the findings of the research and report back to colleagues in June 2024.
Co-op plans to engage with the UK government to ensure 'socio-economic background' is a protected characteristic, which should be considered alongside, and seen to be as important as, gender, ethnicity and disability.
"It cannot be right that those from less advantaged backgrounds are almost twice as likely to end up in working class jobs than others from more privileged backgrounds," said Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO of Co-op Group. "It’s a question of fairness. We want to lead by example, taking action to identify where unfairness is holding our people back. That's why we've announced a range of measures today to break through these barriers.
“That's why we are also calling on the Government and other parties to make it a priority in their manifesto – for socio-economic background to be made the tenth protected characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010 and it becoming illegal to discriminate against an individual because of their background.”