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What’s the difference between positive action and positive discrimination?

With so many initiatives focusing on equality, diversity and inclusion, we often hear about examples of positive action or positive discrimination in the context of employers’ approaches to increasing representation.

The terms are often couched in such a way that we see examples of positive discrimination as inherently bad, because it is deemed unlawful, and positive action as a supportive approach to improving representation in the business.

The Equality Act 2010 says that it is lawful for employers to take positive action, but the law does not allow positive discrimination, but the line between the two often causes confusion.

In basic terms, positive discrimination implies an organisation is recruiting or promoting someone because of their protected characteristic, rather than on merit. Examples of positive action generally involve removing barriers and improving access for under-represented groups to help address inequalities in recruitment and promotion or across the workplace more widely.

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