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Bridging the gap: an exploration of the use and impact of positive action in the UKDespite laws in Britain permitting limited positive action initiatives to combat disadvantage faced by minority groups in employment since the mid-1970s, the subject has notoriously been a neglected and highly controversial area in the UK. Notwithstanding the potential provided by sections 158 and 159 of the Equality Act 2010, it still appears that organisations prefer to steer clear of this opportunity to address disadvantage suffered by protected groups. Whilst there is a body of work considering the theoretical importance of positive action in the UK, there is a lack of empirical exploration of the practical implications of these provisions. This paper will provide a brief overview of the theoretical context and current positive action legislative provisions within the UK. In light of this context, the early findings of a small-scale qualitative study carried out by the authors will be discussed looking at the experiences of a purposive sample of public and private employers in relation to the positive action provisions of the Equality Act 2010. Early research findings suggest that whilst there was a clear willingness and openness by employers to use of outreach measures in order to redress disadvantage, there was evident wariness regarding a move towards preferential treatment as expounded by section 159. Whilst respondents appeared to appreciate the business case for and utility of the positive action measures under section 158, there was far less enthusiasm for more direct preferential treatment, with many respondents raising serious concerns regarding this. These concerns often reflected a highly sensitive risk-based approach towards any action that could expose their organisation to the possibility of “reverse discrimination”.
The Equality Act 2010: Five years onEditorial for a double edition of the International Journal of Discrimination and the Law based on a conference hosted by the University of Chester in collaboration with the University of Liverpool on the Equality Act 2010.