Positive action - Separating fact from fiction

Equality and diversity are matters which are key to the success of organisations which provide services. An inclusive workforce which embraces diversity leads to staff who perform well which in turn improves the experience of the service user.

Positive action was introduced by the Equality Act 2010 but employers have been cautious about relying on it, worried that they will face discrimination claims – there can be a fine line between positive action and positive discrimination. Positive discrimination occurs where an individual is treated more favourably because of a protected characteristic and the treatment does not comply with the positive action provisions set out in the Equality Act and discussed in this article. Positive discrimination is generally prohibited but employers should be aware of two exceptions under the Equality Act: where there is an occupational requirement that a person has a protected characteristic; and the duty to make reasonable adjustments in relation to disabled employees.

With an increased focus on diversity in the workplace recently we have received a number of queries about how employers can utilise positive action.

Within this document we look at some common misconceptions.