The Co-op has become the first UK retailer to publish a socioeconomic pay gap report, highlighting the pay disparity among colleagues from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

This report is part of the Co-op’s ongoing commitment to supporting colleagues from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and advocating for collective action to tackle inequality.

The UK’s largest consumer co-operative collected voluntary data from 48 percent of its 57,000 employees across the UK between April 2023 and April 2024, using the Social Mobility Commission’s recommended methods.

To enhance future insights, the Co-op aims to collect 80 percent of socioeconomic data over the next year, with the current response rate at 72 percent.

The report reveals a mean pay gap of 5.2 percent between colleagues from lower and higher socioeconomic backgrounds. Employees from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to advance into senior positions, with women from these backgrounds facing the largest pay gaps.

What changes will they make?

In response, the Co-op has strengthened its Social Mobility Plan, including campaigning for socioeconomic background to be recognised as the 10th protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act. The company plans to implement more mentoring programs, financial wellbeing support, and an intersectionality development program to address barriers affecting multiple characteristics.

Sarah Atkinson, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, praised the Co-op’s initiative: “This report is a brave step because too few employers are willing to hold themselves accountable. The Co-op has recognised that improving social mobility is both core to its purpose and makes good business sense. Making socioeconomic inequality visible allows us to understand and address these issues effectively.”

Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO of the Co-op Group, emphasised the importance of the report: “This is a truthful report of our business, and while there is work to be done, I am proud that we are the first retailer to undertake this research. By holding ourselves accountable and outlining steps to address inequality, we hope to inspire long-lasting societal change, ensuring everyone can thrive regardless of their background.”

The Co-op’s socioeconomic data publication builds on its commitment to transparency in pay gap reporting, including its ethnicity pay gap report, published since 2021, and its gender pay gap report. The Co-op calls on the government and businesses to learn from its approach and take direct action against workplace socioeconomic unfairness to create systematic change.

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.