Advancing Social Equality

The impact of social class is multifaceted, affecting everything from opportunities to education, training and networking to workplace dynamics, career advancement, income and job security.

Surely an attempt to attract candidates from a lower socio-economic background is a good thing, right? A Camden theatre has recently been loudly criticised on social media for posting a job advert seeking applicants from the “working-class, benefit class, criminal class and/or underclass”. Grouping all of these “classes” together (and to even use the term “underclass”) is highly questionable and we think totally inappropriate and insulting on so many levels. It doesn’t matter that the intention was to be inclusive and to increase minority representation, the impact has been to cause great offence and harm.

A better, more equitable approach would be to develop a hiring criteria that focuses on skills and competencies rather than background, and in particular not on background-related achievements, which may favour those from higher social classes.

The theatre has said they are reviewing their wording and that “the conversation around access to and representation in the arts, and indeed in the media, is a vital one, and we’re committed to continue learning from and contributing to it.”

Clearly, there is a need for continued education on how we understand and refer to class, and also how the intersectionality of social class alongside other layers of identity can create further barriers to opportunity.


So, is it time social class became a protected characteristic under the UK Equality Act 2010?

Protected Characteristics Equality Act 2010 Age Disability Gender Reassignment Pregnancy and Maternity Race Religion or Belief Sexual Orientation Sex Marriage and Civil Partnership
The UK Equality Act 2010 currently identifies the above nine protected characteristics to safeguard individuals from discrimination and promote equality. These characteristics ensure that people are treated fairly and with respect in various aspects of life, including employment, education, and access to services.

We’ve been saying for a long time that making social class a protected characteristic under the UK Equality Act 2010 could significantly advance social equality, by addressing both overt and subtle forms of discrimination in the hiring process and workplace. It would encourage a more inclusive and diverse workforce, promote social mobility, and help break down systemic barriers that perpetuate socio-economic inequalities.

Social class is another distinctive part of what makes an individual who they are: their accent, where they grew up, their education, socio-economic background. Think about how this could impact how someone shows up in the workplace or exclude them from applying for a new role. How they might present themselves or react to a situation.

The concept of protected characteristics has its flaws. It’s a complex area and can be tricky to navigate. So there would need to be careful implementation, ongoing awareness and allyship to ensure the effectiveness of such protections.


Potential challenges and considerations
  • Complexity: Social class can be difficult to define precisely, as it encompasses a range of factors including income, education, occupation, and social background.
  • Implementation: Developing clear criteria for what constitutes social class discrimination could be complex and require careful consideration and consultation.

Social class is a crucial factor that affects individuals’ opportunities and experiences in the workplace. By recognising and addressing the barriers associated with social class, employers can create a more inclusive and equitable environment that values diversity in all its forms.


~ Inclusive Recruiting

Continued conversations nurture better understanding and allyship. Sign your team up today for our EDI Dialogues bite-sized inclusion workshops.

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