The Government has published guidance for employers on how to deal with the Equality Act's positive action provisions, and has urged employers to ignore scare stories about the Act's implications for business.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone advised employers to look at the guidance before the law changes on 6 April, and emphasised the Act's benefits. She said: "Despite what you might have read in some quarters, positive action is absolutely not about political correctness, or red tape, or quotas. It's about giving individual employers an extra tool they can use to help make the workplace fairer.
"Positive action has the potential to make a real difference in the workplace, but only if employers understand what they can do and how they can do it. That's why we've produced straightforward guidance that explains exactly what positive action is all about," she added.
The 2010 Equality Act's positive action provisions give employers the option, when faced with two or more candidates of equal merit, to choose a candidate from a group that is under-represented in the workforce.
The Government stresses that this does not mean allowing "quotas" or giving someone a job just because they are from a minority, and is keen to remind employers that positive discrimination is not acceptable and remains unlawful.
In December 2010, Featherstone announced that the positive action provisions contained in the Equality Act would be enacted as part of the Government's new equality strategy.
The Government's guidance is available on the Government Equalities Office website.
XpertHR provides detailed coverage of the guidance.