With the introduction of new positive action measures to the Equality Act in April we take a look at what positive

action is and how you can use it to enhance your organisation.
Experience has taught us that there are three main ways organisations choose to look at Equality legislation 1. Ignore – This is the construction industry we won’t need it 2. Comply – Do what we need to, what will protect us in a court of law 3. Embrace – see it as an opportunity to win work, increase profits and enhance teams. In the current climate most of the industry is somewhere between 1 and 2 and this is why there is a real opportunity to get ahead of the game enacting positive action legislation to help you diversify your workforce and reap the benefits that accompany a wider range of experience. What is positive action? Positive action is an area of the Equality act that allows you to make special provisions for underrepresented groups within your organisation as long as they are covered by one of the nine protected characteristics which are • • • • • • • • • age disability gender reassignment marriage and civil partnership pregnancy and maternity race (including ethnic or national origins, colour and nationality) religion or belief (including lack of belief) sex sexual orientation

From Oct 2010 the provisions surrounding positive action meant that you could use the legislation to provide training or encourage individuals to apply for roles. Since April 2011 the legislation has been changed to allow for employers to use positive action to employ an underrepresented individual at point of selection when all other things are equal. Positive action is a voluntary section of the act, and whilst you can choose not to employ it in your diversity strategy you are likely to benefit from doing so. You must though be sure you are meeting the conditions of the legislation. Why Use positive Action? An increasing amount of research has shown that well managed diverse teams lead to a more productive work force, increased turnover and higher profits. There are a number of reasons behind this ranging from being more likely to win and gain repeat work if you mirror your client base, gaining additional experience from a wider pool of knowledge and accessing the benefits of a balanced workforce. All of this research and much more points o the fact that it is simply good for business and there is an increasing concern that you might lose out on public

sector work if you can’t meet the additional equality legislation that it must adhere to in the form of the equality duties. How can you as a construction organisation use positive action? So how can you ensure your teams are well managed legally, efficiently and within your budget? Here are some ideas of how you might want to use positive action. Recruitment • The average age of a woman entering the UK construction industry is 26 which means when advertising for apprentices you might want to consider putting your advertisements in places women in that age range are likely to frequent such as Community centres, Drs Surgeries and sure start centres. Note on your advertisement that you encourage applications from BME, disabled, women etc Word your advertising to ensure it sounds inclusive. Offer training for female managers that understands the barriers they are likely to face in male dominated industries and provides them with the tools they need to overcome them Offer support to your staff in the form of an external contact or mentor Encourage people from minority backgrounds to apply for promotions understand that factors aside from ability might be holding them back meaning you lose out on the best person for the job. If you have two equal candidates and are unsure which to pick you can use positive action to employ the individual from an underrepresented group – please note this only applies if the candidates are in all other ways equal.

Retention • • • •

Development

In summary this legislation is voluntary and designed to give you the chance to improve your organisation and put in place measures that will help you retain and develop key individuals by recognising they face additional barriers within the workplace and providing suitable support to overcome them. Positive action aims to make the work place equal, and a well positioned strategy can help you achieve that.