There are certain situations when preferential treatment is given to persons with particular characteristics who are in a disadvantaged position. This is usually done to correct inequality existing in practice. Preferential treatment in these situations will not be considered to be discriminatory.

Positive action can be seen in situations, when steps are taken to help or encourage certain groups of people who, due to historic, economic or other reasons, are disadvantaged in access to work, education, and training. Such preferential treatment is aimed at correcting inequality that exists in practice. Positive action is also sometimes called “positive discrimination”.

Employers can take positive action to help people or specific groups if they are disadvantaged in some way in relation to work, or they have particular needs which are different from other people not belonging to that group.

example A university can take some initiative to stimulate women to apply more for certain subjects, such as technology, where women are often under-represented. A large company may also conduct a special employment programme aimed at hiring more employees from the Romani community.

Requirements for application

To apply the exception of positive action, the choice and need for such policy must be explained, the measures used have to be proportionate and such a policy needs to be announced in advance.

example The exception of positive discrimination would not have been applied correctly if an employer had refuse to employ a better qualified man to give preference to a less qualified woman, if the policy to give preference to women had not been announced in advance.


Last updated 26/06/2019