Positive action is a way to proactively advance equality, such as increasing the number of ethnic minority people in senior roles where they are underrepresented. It can be used for specific needs, eliminate disadvantage and raise participation in certain activities. However, it is rarely used to overhaul inequality within institutional structures and processes and is tailored for targeted change as covered under the terms laid out in the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, policy and process changes would need to accompany voluntary positive action measures to ensure sustainable change in outcomes across the organisation and to embed transformation for race equality and inclusion.

Examples of positive action measures that have been used in some providers for targeted interventions:

  • Improve self-declaration data for diversity monitoring to improve data sets and evidence change.
  • Ensure employee survey response rates for under-represented groups are high with a particular focus on ethnic minority. employees to evidence the need for change and targeted interventions
  • Introduce robust monitoring of access, experience, and outcomes to positive action, by protected characteristic.
  • Engage with and consult ethnic minority staff networks in positive action initiatives.
  • Develop a mechanism for lived experience input from ethnic minority staff to develop qualitative evidence of efficacy of positive action initiatives and ensure there is continuous improvement across iterations.
  • Nominate a board champion for positive action who can communicate the importance and share learning.
  • Ensure there is a robust communications strategy in place to explain the positive action initiatives and foster good relations between different protected characteristics.
  • Audit of all positive action initiatives for targeted interventions and evidence of efficacy. Provide reports to the board and HR directors.
  • Integrate positive action findings and interventions that work into general employment practice at a policy level.
  • Publicise stretch opportunities and wider career development opportunities to groups that are underrepresented and monitor uptake.
  • Determine that shortlists need to include at least one ethnic minority person before proceeding with interviews.

The following statement from the Government Equalities Office can be used to accompany any positive action measures and improve wider understanding of how and why they are used. 

The recruitment team has obtained and analysed credible evidence that people of the protected characteristic (insert) are under-represented compared to the proportion of workforce/patient groups accessing service/impacted by the service. Following discussion and the completion of the Equality Impact Assessment, the recruitment team has decided to use a positive action measure. When faced with two or more candidates of equal merit, we will select a candidate from a particular group (e.g. a particular racial group, age group or gender) that faces a disadvantage or is under-represented in its workforce over a candidate who is not from that group, to achieve diversity in the committee. Equal merit is interpreted as taking account of overall ability, competence, professional experience, and any other qualities required for the position as defined by the Government Equalities Office.


Any decision to use positive action in recruitment and talent management should be accompanied by a robust communications strategy to ensure employees understand the reason for it and to maintain good relations between different groups. This should be integrated with wider communications strategies on inclusion in the workplace.