The positive action provisions of the Equality Act (2010) apply to the University both as an employer and as an education provider. S.158 of the Act says that where an employer or education provider reasonably thinks that people who share a protected characteristic:
- experience a disadvantage connected to that characteristic; or
- have needs that are different from the needs of persons who do not share that characteristic; or
- have disproportionately low participation in an activity compared to others who do not share that protected characteristic
they may voluntarily take any action which is a proportionate means of meeting the aims stated in the Act. 'Proportionate’ means that the action is an appropriate way of achieving the aim and reasonably necessary in the circumstances. It would not be proportionate to take positive action if the aim could be equally as well achieved in a less discriminatory way.
These aims are:
- enabling or encouraging persons who share the protected characteristic to overcome or minimise that disadvantage;
- meeting those needs; or
- enabling or encouraging persons who share the protected characteristic to participate in that activity.
Taking positive action could help the University to achieve its objectives under the Public Sector Equality Duty.
Recruitment and promotion
Employers can take positive action to encourage people from protected groups to apply for jobs and help them make more competitive applications. Taking positive action could enable the University to:
- recruit a more diverse workforce, introducing a wider range of experience and ideas;
- more effectively meet current employees’ development needs;
- fulfil the commitments made in the Equality Policy; and
- make progress towards our institutional equality objectives.
Council has approved the use of specific positive action measures in relation to staff, including:
- institutional targets for the representation of women and ethnic minorities in governance bodies and in senior roles;
- the optional use of a positive action statement in Associate Professor recruitment: ‘Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in Oxford'; and
- the requirement to pause the recruitment process before proceeding to interview if the shortlist is insufficiently diverse.
The Equality and Diversity Unit has prepared detailed guidance on positive action in recruitment, including practical advice and realistic examples of the types of actions employers might choose to take. The guidance summarises the legal requirements and restrictions and sets out current University policy and practice.
Faculties and departments are warmly encouraged to take positive action to increase diversity in recruitment. Please review the EDU’s guidance and seek advice if you have any queries or concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org
The University operates a wide range of targeted positive action measures to promote the participation of under-represented groups, including:
- schools outreach programmes targeted by sex and ethnicity;
- the use of disability and ethnicity as eligibility criteria in the UNIQ+ graduate access scheme;
- scholarships and bursaries targeted by sex, ethnicity, nationality and religion.
Please see the University's Graduate Access pages for details of available funding opportunities
Members of the University considering positive action measures such as targeted outreach or restricted scholarships are advised to review the guidance below and seek advice from the EDU. A positive action case and review by Legal Services are likely to be required.
It is lawful to treat a disabled person more favourably than a non-disabled person, e.g. in order to make reasonable adjustments. However, positive action could be used as a proportionate means of addressing inequality between disabled people with different impairments in order to target groups experiencing particular disadvantages, different needs or under-representation.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides guidance on positive action in its resources on the Equality Act (2010). These documents are available from the EHRC website (link in the right-hand menu).