Thursday, 7 February 2013

Discrimination and positive action


In terms of equalities law this is where people are treated differently because of characteristics that they have which have nothing to do with the situation e.g. someone who is blind can be discriminated against if they applied for a driving job because they cannot see to drive but they cannot be discriminated against when seeking a job that requires a person to be able to travel independently e.g. a social worker, because there are ways for blind people to travel independently e.g. taking buses and taxis.

Whilst discrimination can be both positive and negative it tends to be used in terms of being negatively discriminated against.

Direct Discrimination 

Where someone is treated less favourably because of their race, disability, sex (gender), age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation or gender reassignment etc.

Indirect Discrimination 

Indirect discrimination occurs where the effect of certain requirements, conditions or practices has an adverse impact disproportionately on one group or other. For example if there is a rule which only applies to part-time workers and the majority of part-time workers are women then this can be seen to indirectly discriminate against women.

Positive action and positive discrimination

In limited circumstances, organisations can use ‘positive action’ to address inequalities. This can be used to make up for past discrimination and stereotyping. It may take the form of mentoring women in middle-management who feel that senior management is only for men.  ‘Positive action’ is only allowed where the law expressly permits it, because it is indirect discrimination.  Positive discrimination e.g. choosing one person over another in an interview because of certain characteristics rather than their ability to do the job is illegal.

From April 2011 it became lawful to take positive action when recruiting but only in very specific circumstances.  These circumstances are when employers are faced with two or more candidates with the same abilities and qualifications, they can then choose to hire a candidate from under-represented groups. 

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