Legal measures are needed to tackle class discrimination in the workplace, the TUC has said.
During its Congress, running from 8 September to 11 September, the federation of trade unions is calling on the government to make discrimination on the basis of class unlawful (in line with race, gender and disability). It stated that without new anti-discrimination laws people from working-class backgrounds will continue to face unfair barriers at work and in society.
Employees from working-class backgrounds face direct discrimination, such as employer bias during job applications and interviews, and indirect discrimination, such as the use of unpaid internships as a gateway into jobs, according to the TUC.
The call comes as new TUC research reveals that graduates from wealthier backgrounds are more than twice as likely to be on a £30,000 starting salary than those from working-class backgrounds. Building working class power: How to address class inequality today found that 18% of graduates who went to private school earned above £30,000 six months after graduating, compared with just 9% of those who were state educated.
More than two-fifths (41%) of employed graduates who went to state school earned below £20,000 six months after graduating, compared to 28% of privately-educated graduates.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that by continuing to put working-class people at a disadvantage Britain is “wasting skills and talent”.
“If you’re from a working-class family the odds are still stacked against you. Everyone knows that getting that dream job is too often a case of who you know, not what you know,” she said.
The proposals also recommend that the government introduces a legal duty on public bodies to make tackling all forms of class and income inequality a priority, and creates a requirement that employers report on their class pay gaps in a similar way to existing gender pay gap reporting.
O’Grady said she “want[s] to issue a challenge to politicians”.
“It’s high time we banned discrimination against working-class people. This country is wasting some of our best skills and talent. And if we don’t get change fast it’s not just workers who will lose out – Britain will,” she warned.
“Let’s have a new duty on employers to stamp out class prejudice once and for all.”