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Positive action

What is positive action?

Evidence shows that diverse teams are the most successful in identifying solutions, achieving goals, innovating and creating great team spirit. This will help the Service in effectively identifying and efficiently meeting the needs of the community we serve.

The Equality Act 2010 allows service providers, like the Fire and Rescue Service, to take action that may involve treating one group more favourably where this is a proportionate way to help members of that group overcome a disadvantage or participate more fully, or in order to meet needs they have that are different from the population as a whole. This is called ‘positive action’.

In practice it means that the Service can take steps to help or encourage certain groups of people with different needs, or who are disadvantaged in some way, access work or training. It allows us to think and act differently about how we recruit, retain and develop the widest range of people with different ideas, backgrounds and personal experiences.  For example, the Service could organise an open day for people from a particular ethnic background or gender if they’re under-represented in the employer's workforce. This wouldn’t be unlawful discrimination under the Act.

The approach also contributes to the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty, as part of the Equality Act, and the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people.

Positive action is always voluntary - not compulsory.

The Service can take positive action to help people with a particular protected characteristic if:

•          they’re disadvantaged in some way in relation to work,

•          their participation in employment or training is particularly low, or

•          they have particular needs which are different from other people who don’t share their protected characteristic.

When is something unlawful discrimination?

Generally speaking, it’s unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act if the three conditions above do not apply or are not met and the Service treats an individual differently because of one of the following characteristics:

•          age

•          disability

•          gender reassignment

•          marriage and civil partnership

•          pregnancy and maternity

•          race

•          religion or belief

•          sex

•          sexual orientation.

The Equality Act calls these ‘protected’ characteristics.

What can the Service do?

The Equality Act says employers can take steps to:

•          help people with a particular protected characteristic overcome their disadvantage - for example, by offering internships or placements

•          encourage the participation of people with a particular protected characteristic in employment or training - for example, by reserving places on a training course

•          meet their needs - for example, by providing support or mentoring.

Favourable treatment if someone's disabled

It’s not unlawful discrimination to treat someone who’s disabled better or more favourably than someone who's not disabled. For example, an employer is allowed to say they will interview all disabled candidates who meet the minimum selection criteria or provide specific training to disabled employees only.

Positive action in recruitment

The Service can take protected characteristics into account when deciding who to appoint to a job, if:

•          people with the protected characteristic are at a disadvantage or under-represented in the workforce, and

•          candidates are equally qualified.

For example, if the Service has several equally qualified candidates for a job, it wouldn't be unlawful discrimination to give preferential treatment to a woman if women are under-represented in the workforce. But the Service would have to take the comparative merits of the other candidates into consideration before making the appointment.


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