Positive discrimination

Positive discrimination is generally unlawful in the UK. For example, an employer recruiting a person because he or she has a relevant protected characteristic rather than because he or she is the best candidate would be committing discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. It is also unlawful to set quotas to recruit or promote a specific number or proportion of people with a particular protected characteristic.

There are limited circumstances in which it is lawful to require a job applicant or worker to have a particular protected characteristic, for example where an occupational requirement applies. Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance gives the example of a women’s refuge requiring all members of staff to be women.

Positive discrimination, should be distinguished from positive action, which is lawful.


Jon Holmes, the comedian and radio presenter, claimed the BBC's diversity drive meant he lost his jobAdrian Sherratt/REX/Shutterstock

Eight ways to ensure diversity initiatives are fair

After a BBC radio presenter claimed he was sacked for being a white man, is positive discrimination a fair solution...

Matt Baker and Alex Jones on The One Show – A memo suggested a new reporter should be northern and from an ethnic minority. Photo: David Bebber/REX/Shutterstock

Practical ways to tackle diversity without positive action

14 Jun 2016

The BBC made headlines recently with claims it was favouring candidates from certain minorities and age groups. But if diversity...

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positive-discrimination

How employers can take positive action to increase workforce diversity

26 Aug 2015

To what extent can employers take positive action in recruitment or promotion to increase workforce diversity? Ashok Kanani reviews the...

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Women-only shortlists

Should the UK introduce women-only shortlists for board positions?

15 Apr 2014

The lack of women occupying top spots in UK business is in the spotlight again, as business secretary Vince Cable...

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Equality Act: positive action and changes to discrimination law

10 Jun 2010

The Equality Act aims to let employers use positive action to boost workforce diversity. Daniel Thomas examines that and other...

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Imperial Tobacco’s new female chief hits out at positive discrimination for women

28 Apr 2010

Imperial Tobacco’s new female chief has hit out at positive discrimination proposals to get more women into the boardroom.Alison Cooper,...

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National Black Police Association chief calls for positive discrimination

28 Oct 2008

National Black Police Association (NBPA) chief Ali Dizaei has called for positive discrimination to be introduced into the police force....

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London mayor Boris Johnson rejects positive discrimination

22 Jul 2008

London mayor Boris Johnson has ruled out the use of positive discrimination to increase the number of black and minority...

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Equalities legislation: positive discrimination risks

8 Jul 2008

Thomases Jefferson and Paine have a lot to answer for: it was they, in the late 18th century, who proclaimed...

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First draft of Equality Bill could pave way for positive discrimination

26 Jun 2008

Harriet Harman will unveil the first draft of the Equality Bill before Parliament today – potentially paving the way for...

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Friday podcast: Carter and Carter is nationalised, the EC reviews UK information and consultation law, and how acceptable is positive discrimination?

28 Mar 2008

HR news and analysis including: Newcastle College buys a major part of Carter & Carter from administrators the European Council...

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Harman considers law change to allow positive discrimination

20 Mar 2008

The government has refused to rule out a change in the law to allow employers to discriminate in favour of...

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Positive discrimination: Positive contribution to the debate discovered online

24 Sep 2007

I’ve just discovered Tony Pettengell’s piece ‘Why¬†positive discrimination is a positively stupid idea’ via a Google search, and wanted...

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Environment Agency in positive discrimination row over training programme closed to white English people

6 Aug 2007

Campaigners will this week ask the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) to freeze an Environment Agency training programme which white...

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Positive discrimination coverage: reader feedback

22 May 2007

Our recent coverage on positive discrimination – especially when the Metropolitan Police HR director came out in support of it (Personnel...

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