HomeCorporate Social ResponsibilityCo-op becomes first retailer to publish socioeconomic pay gap report

Co-op becomes first retailer to publish socioeconomic pay gap report

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Publication of the pay gap report is part of Co-op’s ongoing commitment to supporting colleagues from a lower socioeconomic background.

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Co-op has today published its first socioeconomic pay gap report highlighting the difference in pay between colleagues from different socioeconomic backgrounds, becoming the first UK retailer to do so. The report findings will inform the business’ social mobility strategy and the actions needed to close its pay gap.

The UK’s largest consumer co-operative collected voluntary data from 48% of its 57,000 colleagues across the UK between April 2023 – April 2024, using the Social Mobility Commission’s recommended method to measure socioeconomic background*. To improve the insights of future reports, Co-op has set a target of collecting 80% of socioeconomic colleague data over the next 12 months. The current rate of Co-op respondents is at 72%.

The report shows that Co-op has a mean pay gap of 5.2% between colleagues from a lower and higher socioeconomic background. Colleagues from a lower socioeconomic background are less likely to progress into more senior positions, compared to their counterparts from the professional (or higher) socioeconomic background category, whilst female colleagues from lower socioeconomic backgrounds face the biggest pay gap.

In response to the report Co-op has doubled down on its Social Mobility Plan , which includes campaigning for the government to make socioeconomic background the 10th protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act.

Co-op has committed to taking bold action by delivering more mentoring programmes, financial wellbeing support and an intersectionality development programme to help address barriers affecting multiple characteristics, such as socioeconomic background and gender. This work is underpinned by the organisation’s social mobility taskforce, a group of colleagues working across the business with a passion and drive for social equality, helping the business to remain focused and accountable.

Sarah Atkinson, CEO of Social Mobility Foundation, said: “This report is a brave step, because too few employers are willing to hold themselves accountable – and it’s also a smart one. The Co-op has recognised that improving social mobility is both core to its purpose and makes good business sense.

“Recent years have seen a welcome focus on addressing other inequalities, such as those based on ethnicity and gender, and we’ve seen how effective reporting has been for the gender pay gap, which is now at its narrowest since reporting became mandatory in 2017.

“Pay gap reporting in isolation is not a silver bullet, but making socioeconomic inequality visible means that we can understand the issues and see where multiple barriers overlap, such as those faced by women from working-class backgrounds. We know that what gets measured gets addressed. Meaningful change can then follow to ensure that those from all backgrounds can get in, get on and belong in the workplace.”

Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO of the Co-op Group, said: “This is a truthful report of our business and even though there is work to be done, I am proud that we are the first retailer to have carried out this research. It shows clearly that socioeconomic background, as a factor, can have a significant impact on progression and performance, but its influence on a person’s career is often overlooked by employers.

“For Co-op, establishing this annual reporting process forms a crucial part of our commitment to making a difference to issues that our own member owners care about. By holding ourselves accountable and outlining the steps we will take to address inequality within our business we hope to inspire long-lasting change at a societal level, so that everyone can thrive no matter their background.

“We know the Government is committed to ensuring that people can succeed no matter what their background, with plans to activate the socioeconomic duty in the Equality Act 2010. We welcome this positive step, and encourage the Government, together with other businesses, to take learnings from our approach and go further by taking direct action against the unfairness that workers can face – helping to create true systematic change when it comes to socioeconomic background in the workplace.”

Publication of the socioeconomic data builds on Co-op’s work to provide greater transparency around pay gap reporting, joining the Group’s existing ethnicity pay gap report which it has voluntarily published since 2021, as well as its gender pay gap report.

* Social Mobility Commission, Resources for Employers: https://socialmobility.independent-commission.uk/find-resources/for-employers/

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