According to the Equality Act 2010, specifically preferential action is allowed in the instance of a person with a disability. This would be through the provision of reasonable adjustment where needed and appropriate.
Positive action can also be used in the instance of disabled applicants. Employers are permitted to offer all disabled applicants an interview should they meet all the essential criteria outlined in the specification for the role.
Positive action does not only relate to recruitment activity. Positive and proportional action can be taken to support those at a disadvantage in employment. Such actions could seek to equalise opportunities to access training and promotion for example.
Positive action vs positive discrimination
Positive discrimination, unlike positive action, is not allowed in recruitment and employment.
Similarly, setting a quota to recruit a specific number of people from a specific protected group is also positive discrimination.
Why take positive action?
A diverse workforce has been found to be more innovative, creative and productive. Therefore it makes good business sense to take action to ensure you have a diverse workforce at all levels.
The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) which came into action in 2011, includes section 149, which required public authorities such as the NHS to take action to:
- Remove/minimise the disadvantage experienced by people connected to their protected characteristic.
- Take steps to meet the needs people from protected groups where these are different from the needs of other people.
- Encourage people from protected groups to participate in public life or in other activities where their participation is disproportionately low.