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Positive action can be a valuable tool for increasing diversity in the workforce, but has often left HR practitioners running scared for fear they may slip into positive discrimination. However, the law is clear; positive action can be used to select a candidate from an underrepresented group if the candidates are otherwise equal.
Cheshire Police made two clear errors in the application of positive action. The first was bowing to political pressure from senior leadership; being exposed as having no black officers in 2015 inevitably led to strong words from upstairs. This is surely why Cheshire Police’s recruiters attempted to bend a very clear line so much.
The second was, as the tribunal held, that no attempt was made to prove that candidates were ‘otherwise equal’. Cheshire Police’s claim that it had found 127 people from among its recruits that were completely equal in all respects except race, sexual orientation and disability is laughable, and the ruling is a warning to other employers that a simple pass or fail metric is insufficient when implementing positive action.