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Annie Hayes

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Any Answers: Positive action or positive discrimination?

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In a recent posting to the Any Answers forum member Ian Stone asked for advice on setting up a positive action scheme to attract women into construction apprenticeships. The responses centered on the legalities, so to throw further light on the wider issues we asked Sue Morrison, Personnel Director for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, to offer her views.




While I appreciate that there is under-representation of certain groups as identified in the various pieces of legislation in some employing organisations, I am uncomfortable about the concept of positive action recruitment plans.

Employers have the right to employ the right people for their jobs. The way they should be doing this is by putting in place a structured recruitment process. This includes an up to date job description, an accurate person specification, an application form that requires straight facts from candidates and separate ethnic monitoring sheets. Shortlisting of applicants from application forms rather than CVs allows for all information to be reviewed from the same format and must be carried out with reference to the JD and PS.

Presently, there is no requirement for private companies to undertake reviews of their staff make-up, but there is no doubt that a diverse workforce is more dynamic and different cultures, backgrounds, ages and so forth can do nothing but enrich the workforce and companies should be encouraged to widen the pool of candidates.

However, where an organisation has carried out a review of its staff make-up and has identified that particular groups are under-represented and it wishes to improve the situation, the action required would be to encourage those groups to apply for roles.

Positive measures include investigation of other avenues for recruitment: placing adverts in ethnic minority publications, or ensuring that adverts contain ‘positive’ statements in adverts, stating that applications from e.g. women are particularly welcome. In these days of age discrimination, look again at the JD/PS that states a minimum of so many years experience – is it really necessary? Within the organisation, ensure that training isn’t being denied to older workers, women of childbearing age etc.

I would hope that there will never be a legal requirement for positive action or for Government to insist upon quotas. Equally, I think companies that want to correct any imbalance would be wrong to try to work out a percentage for one group or another – I would be concerned that business focus would be lost in the aim of being politically correct! Such an approach can lead to resentment from other members of staff and unfair to preferred candidates that they might in any way feel that they have been employed solely because they help with the quota, rather than on merit.

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Annie Hayes

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