Building a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce at Thames Water - Business in the Community

Building a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce at Thames Water

Thames Water has signed up to Business in the Community’s (BITC) Opening Doors campaign, as part of its commitment to a diverse workforce.

Thames Water is the UK’s largest water and wastewater services company. As part of a commitment to increase the diversity of its workforce, Thames Water has signed up to Business in the Community’s (BITC) Opening Doors campaign and is already seeing a positive impact.

What action is Thames Water committing to?

Creating partnerships that connect untapped talent to your jobs

Thames Water has targeted a range of disadvantaged jobseekers, including carers, young Black men, prison leavers, long-term unemployed people, and refugees. At the heart of this strategy is forming meaningful partnerships with organisations supporting these groups, such as Drive Forward Foundation, Aspire Oxford, and Working Chance. These efforts are paying off, with Thames Water exceeding its year-end target of 120 hires from community partners by March 2023.

Key to this success has been setting ambitious targets for into-work rates. For example, for its sector-based work academy programme, which provides a two-week customer service experience, the business aims to achieve at least 50% of people progressing into jobs at Thames Water. This has resulted in 45 candidates being placed into jobs through the programme.

Advertising jobs on channels that target diverse groups

Alongside its partnerships and employment programmes, Thames Water ensures that jobs are advertised on platforms that reach job seekers from diverse backgrounds. This includes making sure community partners are aware of vacancies at the business, but also advertising through organisations such as Radical Recruit that connect businesses with disadvantaged jobseekers.

Including diverse colleagues on interview panels

Thames Water has included diverse colleagues on its interview panels for all recent apprenticeship and graduate recruitment, where it was received very positively. As a result, the strategy is now in motion for Thames Water to roll this out to other business areas by Summer 2023.

This change to business-as-usual recruitment is the latest in a raft of changes made by the business in recent years, including:

  • Training hiring managers.  
  • Enabling candidates facing barriers to identify these during recruitment to identify what additional support may be necessary.  
  • Removing the criminal conviction question from application forms.  
  • Tracking candidates that have come through partner organisations to ensure the right support is provided and candidates can progress. 
  • Reducing referencing from five years to three years.  
  • Promoting vacancies with community partners. 

These changes are helping the business make progress against its targets for apprenticeship and graduate recruitment of 50% hires from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, and 50% female hires.

In September 2022, 52% of apprentices were from a lower-socio-economic background, and 38.3% were female; while for graduate recruitment, 25% were female (which is higher than the industry average) and 33% were ethnically diverse, and 33% participated in the Kickstart programme (for unemployed young people) at Thames Water.

Rachael Parker, Employment and Skills partner explains how signing up to Opening Doors is helping the business to achieve its ambitions for a more diverse and inclusive workforce:

“We have been working with community partners for some time, but signing up to Opening Doors has helped us to focus our efforts on ensuring the people we support are able to gain employment at Thames Water. We see so much diverse talent through our partners, and we are working hard to ensure our recruitment practices are inclusive to ensure we do not miss out on these amazing candidates.” 


* Employers that sign up to be an Opening Doors employer commit to at least
three specific actions across our five keys to inclusive recruitment.
(1) Create (2) Show (3)Use (4)Focus (5)Prioritise