Employers: what is positive action in the workplace?

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

  • employers

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • Great Britain flag icon

      Great Britain

Positive action is about taking specific steps to improve equality in your workplace. For example, to increase the number of disabled people in senior roles in which they are currently under-represented.  

It can be used to meet a group’s particular needs, lessen a disadvantage they might experience or increase their participation in a particular activity.

You must be able to show that positive action is an appropriate way for your organisation to achieve one of these aims and the steps you are taking have been carefully thought through.

Using positive action at work is voluntary. However, public sector employers should consider using positive action to help them comply with their Public Sector Equality Duty.

Employers who use positive action measures may find it brings benefits to their organisation, including a wider pool of talented, skilled and experienced people from which to recruit and a better understanding of the needs of a more diverse range of customers.

Six examples of positive action 

  • placing job adverts to target particular groups, to increase the number of applicants from that group
  • including statements in job adverts to encourage applications from under-represented groups, such as ‘we welcome female applicants’
  • offering training or internships to help certain groups get opportunities or progress at work
  • offering shadowing or mentoring to groups with particular needs
  • hosting an open day specifically for under-represented groups to encourage them to get into a particular field
  • favouring the job candidate from an under-represented group, where two candidates are ‘as qualified as’ each other

Please see chapter 12 of our employer code of practice for more information on positive action.

Last updated: 27 Mar 2019

Further information

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

Phone: 0808 800 0082
Textphone: 0808 800 0084

You can email using the contact form on the EASS website.

Also available through the website are BSL interpretation, web chat services and a contact us form.


Opening hours:

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closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays

Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.