Job ad for “underclass” applicants deemed “disturbing”

Recruitment of candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds (LSEBs) fell from 75% in 2022 to 52% in 2023

Commentators have criticised a job advert that invited applicants from “working-class, benefit class, criminal class and/or underclass” backgrounds.

The ad was for a chief executive role at Camden People’s Theatre, London, the Daily Mail reported.

Speaking to HR magazine, Rebecca Montacute, head of research and policy for the social mobility charity Sutton Trust, said: “This advert doesn't reflect best practice in how to talk about socio-economic background in a professional context.”  

Read more: We must all help eradicate the class pay gap 

In a LinkedIn post, Sophie Pender, founder and CEO of The 93% Club, described the ad as “particularly disturbing”, while noting that she suspected it came from a place of goodwill.

“Whoever wrote this believed that describing working class people synonymously with ‘criminal class’, ‘underclass’ and ‘benefit class’ was the correct terminology. What does this tell us? Even among the most well-meaning efforts to diversify, class continues to be the last socially acceptable form of discrimination.”

Montacute championed employers wanting to promote social mobility, but urged them to consult dedicated guidance on this. “It’s important to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background,” she said.

“The Sutton Trust has set out advice for employers on how to talk about class and socio-economic background. It is aimed both at those taking their first steps to improve socio-economic diversity in their workforce, as well as those who are already further into the process.”

Montacute added: “Research shows that the social and economic circumstances a person grew up in, such the social class and financial resources of their family, and the type of school they attended, can sometimes disadvantage them in the workplace. It’s essential that employers understand more about these issues in their workforce, so they can remove any barriers, open up opportunities within their organisation and ensure they are making full use of the talent that’s available.

“Getting the best people into the workplace, and supporting them to thrive, makes sound business sense. By tapping into the potential that exists in all corners of our society and our country, employers can gain a competitive edge and benefit from diverse viewpoints. Wasted talent has an economic as well as a social cost.”

Read more: Social mobility initiatives fall by 23%

Recruitment of candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds (LSEBs) fell from 75% in 2022 to 52% in 2023, according to research from social-mobility charity Making The Leap.

In 2023, while 87% of UK employers committed to advancing social mobility through outreach efforts, only 52% hired people from LSEBs.

The task of recruiting a wider range of people from different socio-economic backgrounds needs an holistic rather than a tokenistic approach, suggested Tude Banjoko, founder of Making The Leap.

Comparing outreach initiatives, like attending events to promote a  brand, with a more traditional recruitment approach, Banjoko told HR magazine: “Employers might prioritise outreach over recruitment because it’s easier to do, it’s cheaper and less of a commitment.

“Outreach is important as a first step. But ultimately, what less-advantaged people need is the jobs in which they can work their way out of poverty.”