The Equality Act – Positive Action in Recruitment and Promotion

Posted: 2nd March 2011

Provisions contained in the Equality Act 2010 that allow positive action specifically in the process of recruitment and promotion, in limited circumstances, come into force on 6 April 2011. Positive action applies to all the protected characteristics covered by the Act.
The new provisions mean that it is not unlawful to recruit or promote a candidate who is of equal merit, in relation to the specific job or position for which they have applied, to another candidate for the same post if the employer reasonably thinks that:
  • the candidate has a protected characteristic that is under-represented in the workforce; or
  • people with that characteristic suffer a disadvantage connected to that characteristic.
This kind of positive action is only allowed where it is a proportionate way of addressing the under-representation or disadvantage. The Act does not allow an employer to appoint a less suitable candidate just because he or she has a protected characteristic that is under-represented or disadvantaged.
The Government has published a Quick Start Guide to Using Positive Action in Recruitment and Promotion to help employers understand how they can use the new provisions to improve diversity in their workforce. This contains useful examples to illustrate how the measure will operate and practical advice on its implementation. See http://www.equalities.gov.uk/pdf/Positive%20Action%20in%20Recruitment%20and%20Promotion%20Guide%201.pdf.