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Positive Action

Positive action is the deliberate introduction of measures to eliminate or reduce discrimination or its ‘effects’. It is about encouraging people from particular, demonstrably under-represented, groups to apply for jobs. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website provides greater detail on positive action.

Two forms of positive action are permitted under the Equality Act 2010: general positive action, which might include reserving places for a protected group on training courses or providing mentoring for a particular group to increase their representation at senior levels; and positive action that specifically relates to recruitment and promotion, also known as the ‘tie-break provision’. Here an employer can take an individual’s protected characteristic into account in recruitment or promotion.

What is Positive Action

Positive action is the steps that an employer can take to encourage people from groups with different needs or with a past track record of disadvantage or low participation to apply for jobs. The job is still given to the best candidate, regardless of whether they have a particular characteristic or not.

Using positive action is a choice the employer makes and the action must always be proportional to the need.

Equality law allows positive action to be used in recruitment before or at the application stage. It is not the same as Positive Discrimination or Affirmative Action, which are illegal.

When to use Positive Action

An employer must demonstrate a need to make use of positive action. In order to demonstrate this need the employer must have at least twelve months worth of data indicating that particular groups of people are under-represented in a particular area of work.

The purpose of, and the need for, the initiative must be clearly communicated.

How to use Positive Action

Positive action can be used to encourage particular groups to apply, or to help people with particular protected characteristics to perform to the best of their ability.

Examples of its use include:

  • Targeted advertising of jobs. This can be using specific, but not exclusive, media to advertise jobs
  • Using positive action statements in recruitment adverts, for example stating that the employer welcomes applications from a particular group, for example men at a nursery where the workforce is, and has been, 80% female
  • Offering pre-application training where this meets a need. For example CV development and leadership training skills
  • Offering mentoring schemes
  • Participation in career fairs
  • Holding open days

All these activities are aimed specifically at encouraging applications from under-represented groups. However, positive action is not positive discrimination: the position is awarded to the best candidate regardless of whether they fall into a particular group of not.

The University of Manchester and Positive Action

Under the Equality Act (2010) the University of Manchester must demonstrate that it has paid due regard to advancing equality. This involves:

  1. Removing or minimising disadvantages suffered by people due to their protected characteristics.
  2. Taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
  3. Encouraging people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.

To this end the University has made use of positive action in a number of ways including:

  • The Disability Confident Scheme
  • Faculties within the University have run promotion workshops for under-represented BAME and female staff
  • Manchester Museum has introduced a number of positive action work placements for disabled people.