New laws needed to tackle class-based discrimination

We welcome new research by the TUC which exposes the scale of class inequality in the workplace and calls for legal measures to drive change. Their findings reveal unfair discrimination and a striking pay gap: individuals with parents who worked in managerial and professional occupations are more likely to enter high-earning jobs after graduation than those with parents in semi-routine or routine occupations. This echoes our own research findings along with those by Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison, the Social Mobility Commission, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and others. The evidence base is strong and the case for change is irrefutable. 

We agree with the TUC that new legislation is required to protect the rights of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and to focus the efforts of employers to achieve greater social equality. Our recommendations chime with those of the TUC and extend further: 

  • Socio-economic background should be made a protected characteristic.

  • Discimination on the basis of class should be unlawful.

  • Pay gaps by socio-economic background should be reported. 

  • The government should enforce the socio-economic duty (section 1 of the Equality Act 2010) which requires public bodies to adopt transparent and effective measures to address the inequalities that result from differences in occupation, education, place of residence or social class. 

Additionally, employers have a duty to better understand the social composition of their workforce and closely monitor the way that social background informs access, pay, progression and retention. We have worked with the Cabinet Office to produce guidance for firms on how to achieve this and recently collaborated with Jerwood Arts to produce a Toolkit for arts employers to achieve socio-economic diversity and inclusion. Legislation is required to promote social equality, but it needs to be accompanied by robust workforce data and strategic and operational guidance on fostering inclusive and enabling work cultures.

Nik Miller (Chief Executive, Bridge Group): “We support the TUC in requesting new legislation to expose social inequality in the workplace and create incentives for employers to end class-based discrimination.”

Sarah Dauncey