IntroductionAt each stage in the twentieth century British race relations have been subjective by Britain’s relations with other parts of the world. In the immense imperial age up to the end of the Second World War the fate and ambitions of the small number of black, South Asian, Chinese and other non-white residents were associated to movements for colonial freedom. In the post-war era they were affected by the new idyllic of the multiracial Commonwealth on the other hand to the old ideal of the white Dominions forming the Commonwealth while other peoples were demoted to a lower status. With Britain’s heavy dependence upon the United States, and the increase of US influence on numerous aspects of British life in the cold war period, anti-racists in Britain looked to the instance of American civil rights from the sixties onwards, while US styles of racism became more familiar, through films and documentaries, than before. Now, as the century draws to its close, Britain’s position in the world has changed again.
As 1973 she has been-sometimes uneasily-a member of the EC.Recognition of this new framework has been slow to arrive. For one thing, British habits of mind and political attitudes are always resistant to foreign notions.
English was the language of the empire, the Commonwealth and the United States, and debates about race relations, encircled by this English-speaking world, could move liberally from place to place. The EU is multilingual, and its styles of thought, its legal language and its assumptions about cultures belong to a continental, not an Anglo-Saxon, model.Furthermore, latent British suspicion and antagonism towards ‘the Continent’, and some countries in particular, have been fanned in recent years by definite politicians and tabloid newspapers.
;The Legal FrameworkBritain’s first Race Relations Act, interdiction racial discrimination, was passed in 1965, and succeeded by stronger, more inclusive, legislation in 1968 and 1976. There has been no major revision of the race relations legislation since then, though there have been minor amendments.The idea with which race was most commonly associated in official labor discourse was ‘relations’. A momentous part of labors’ approach to race was to take the credit for the achievements of race relations legislation.Throughout five and a half years in office the labor government did much to encourage integration of immigrants into the community. This contrasts brilliantly with the functioning of the Conservative Government…the Tories failed to take the decisive action so urgently required….
With this legislation [1965 Race Relations Act] the Labor Government fulfilled the 1964 election pledge of legislation against acts of racial discrimination and provocation in public places.(Labor Party 1972a:25) What are the insinuations of the race concept’s association with relations? An examination of what was at stake in labourist constructions of relations reveals the centrality of labors’ concerns concerning the character of the British political community (nation), in organizing its approach to race issues. At the centre of these apprehensions were once again notions of order. The bearers of black and white skin face each other in mutual incredulity and hostility in labors’ political community.Race relations were the matter of three major pieces of legislation, and a focus in postwar labor race politics. Its limitations are well recognized (Anwar 1986:33-5, Ben-Tovim et al 1986:29, Ben-Tovim and Gabriel 1984:153-9). Labors’ consideration to race relations came long after it was raised in parliament in the early 1950s, and was incremental, each Race Relations Act intensification the last. Labors’ approach to race relations was slow and politically timorous, while looked at in terms of its achievements.
The legislation attained limited protection for black people from stimulation to racial hatred, from some of the more apparent forms of racial discrimination in provision procedures, and some recourse to the law. Its powers of enforcement were partial, and its scope merely slowly extended to cover employment and housing rights. Race relations legislation relics a statement of labors’ inability to deal with racial disparity in a multi-racial society. But race relations legislation was never planned as a defense of black civil rights, neither was it intentional to convey a greater equity in the allocation of social resources.
Race relations legislation was labors’ effort to provide a formal legislative framework for multi-racialism, a notion it was unable to entertain in the thirties.The Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA) makes prerequisites for employers and training providers to support members of particular racial groups to apply for posts where it can be shown that they have been formerly underrepresented. The RRA was strongly modeled on the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, which holds a similar provision for positive action to be taken regarding countering sex discrimination. The RRA makes it lawful for an employer to offer training to members of underrepresented racial groups to equip them to do particular work. The aspiration of this type of positive action is to permit members of underrepresented racial groups to struggle with others on equal terms for available jobs. Positive action might be able to help raise general levels of representation within an organization as well as amongst more senior and skilled jobs.
It can therefore be used at both point of entry to an organization and concerning internal promotion processes. Selection should, however, be based on merit and assessed exploiting criteria which are pertinent to the demands of the job. Within the UK legislation under representation is a key precondition of any lawful positive action measure. Employers are capable to realize positive action measures provided that they can show that under representation presently exists according to one or more of the following conditions:There are no persons of that racial group employed in that work by the organization;That the numbers of employees occupied in that work that belong to that racial group is small in proportion to:A.
their illustration as a percentage of the Great Britain workforce;B. their illustration amongst the population of the area from which the organization normally recruits either locally or nationally.;The specific lawful optimistic action measures that can be taken, given the conditions of under representation are met, are derived from sections 35, 37 and 38 of the RRA. Welsh et al. (1994) differentiate three different types of positive action which are lawful: encouragement measures, pre-entry training and in-service training. Encouragement measures (sections 37 and 38 of the RRA) permit an organization to support persons of a particular racial group to take benefit of opportunities for doing particular work in an area of employment where they are presently underrepresented. An instance of this might be within job advertisements where an association includes a statement which encourages applicants from a specific racial group to concern, explaining that presently they are underrepresented.
Pre-entry training (section 37 of the RRA) may be given only to persons of a particular underrepresented racial group in order to provide them with the skills requisite for the specific area of work. In this situation trainees should not have employee status throughout the training and must not receive a guarantee of a job at the end of the training. Such training must allow thriving participants to compete on equal terms for accessible job opportunities. They are then judged on value in the competition for jobs. In-service training (section 38 of the RRA) can be given by an employer to employees of a particular racial group so as to equip them for work in an area where they are underrepresented, hence supporting possible career progression. Such training might also be offered on the employer’s behalf by a training organization. In this case they will have employee status and the training will be focused on promotion prospects. The RRA (section 35) as well renders lawful any acts done so as to afford persons of a particular racial group access to facilities or services to congregate the special needs of that group in relation to education, training or welfare.
An instance of this is the provision of English language training where people have another first language. This was a general early form of training provided in the UK, which was not specifically a type of optimistic action but was instead focusing upon integration of recent migrant groups (Wrench and Taylor, 1993: 8-9).Numerous other policies and actions are frequently referred to by employers as positive action.
Though, the legislation is very detailed concerning what is permissible and largely hinges on the issue of first proving under representation. Positive action in the UK permits employers to take steps to assist members of underrepresented racial groups to a position from which they can struggle on equal terms with others. The principle of equal treatment then applies selection and appointment being based on merit. Positive action is often misunderstood or mystified with positive discrimination or reverse discrimination.
The latter is illegal in the UK and consists of setting illegal quotas (not to be confused with targets) whereby an employer chooses that it should increase the proportion of an underrepresented group by a definite percentage and does so by favored recruitment and promotion. Targets are permitted within the legislation and expectant within some national campaigns as a way of focusing policy on particular trouble areas. Targets give an aim to try to achieve and therefore can facilitate effective monitoring of progress.A stronger form of legislation exists in Northern Ireland under the Fair Employment Act 1989 (FEA). This is recognized to be the strongest piece of equality legislation in Western Europe, though it is mostly based on religious groups. It is aimed at the active support of fair employment practices by employers and the use of affirmative action to cure under representation of either the Protestant or Roman Catholic religious community in Northern Ireland. At any time the Fair Employment Commission (FEC) can consider an employer and instruct it to take mandatory affirmative action (as positive measures are called in Northern Ireland). Affirmative action refers to actions designed to safe fair participation in employment by means of adapting current practices to support levels of representation or the modification or desertion of practices that have restricted participation.
Generally speaking affirmative action in this framework equates with positive action in Great Britain under the RRA. Though, the major difference is that whereas employers in Northern Ireland might be encouraged to take affirmative action measures if they do not do so they will be initiated to do so by the FEC. This is unlike the experience in mainland UK where optimistic action remains voluntary. The role of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in the UK was recognized alongside the RRA. The CRE’s role is mainly one of promotion and education surrounding the intention of the legislation. The CRE does have the power to carry out official investigations of organizations where it has reason to consider discrimination is occurring. Though, it does not have the power of its equivalent in Northern Ireland to instruct organizations to take particular policy measures.
;The framework for Positive ActionPositive action must be seen as an essential part of an overall initiative aiming to augment equality and levels of representation among an organization’s workforce. For positive action to be thriving it needs to be supported by an organizational framework that is dedicated to the provision of fairness to all potential and existing employees. This organizational framework has three key elements which help to ensure that positive action measures achieve their aims: proper equal opportunity policy; an exploration of the workforce and an analysis of the organization. Proper Equal Opportunities PolicyA rising number of employers in the UK now have an equal opportunity policy or statement. The excellence and efficiency of such policies varies tremendously from a strongly worded, very thorough policy through to a simple statement that outlines no areas of action. The collision of the policy is also determined by the strength of its wording, the support it has and how it is put into practice. Jewson and Mason (1992) illustrious two ends of a spectrum of approaches to equal opportunities as the ‘liberal’ and the ‘radical’ approaches.
Obviously, as a theoretical model, it is improbable that practice within organizations tidily fits into either the radical or tolerant approach. A radical approach to policy considers fairness as equality in results and might therefore rely on positive discrimination to attain its objectives. The more universal ‘liberal’ approach draws on theories of classical liberalism and describes the task of equal opportunities as securing free antagonism by eradicating unfair discrimination. The liberal approach will intercede in the free competition for employment using positive action where it is needed to overcome disadvantage that hinders access to competition on equal terms.Positive action must ideally occur within the framework of an equal opportunities policy as suggested by the UK’s Employment Department (Employment Department, 1993). Though, the equal opportunity policy itself must be an effective working policy. In order to be effectual an equal opportunity policy should be agreed and supported by both managers and workforce representatives. The policy must then be widely publicized to the modern workforce and all potential employees.
Areas for action must be identified and prioritized, perhaps with targets and a timetable for their attainment outlined. The policy must be supported by continuing monitoring of the workforce to assess its impact. The results of the monitoring must then be used to modify the policy, and its priorities, as appropriate. Therefore, if optimistic action takes place within an active policy of this kind it should stand a greater probability of being established by the workforce and being effective in tackling under representation.Also key to efficacy is the way an equal opportunities policy, and hence positive action, operates together with other organizational policies.
Jewson et al. (1995) differentiate different model types that indicate the way in which an equality policy might be linked to other organizational practices. Policies can be characterized by a formal written statement but a lack of completion (dissociation model). A preferred type is the integration model where equality practices, with positive action, are ‘comprehensive, proactive and focused around an involved, ongoing, formal equal opportunities policy’ (Jewson et al., 1995).
In several organizations, with a long history of commitment to equality, it may be hard to identify specific equality activities as equality policies and provisions have turn out to be part of other organizational practices (assimilation model). Positive action needs a supportive framework so as to be effective but it is also most likely to occur in those organizations that have a history of assurance to equality objectives and where organizations are closer to Jewson et al.’s integration or assimilation model types. Unfortunately previous research suggests that equal opportunities policies do not often entail elaborate or ongoing processes and often stand in segregation from other organizational policies and decision making processes.
This is true in a number of areas of employment and has been well documented for the university division in a series of surveys of institutional policies (CUCO, 1994).;Evaluate the WorkforceThe principle of an equal opportunity policy and positive action must be to support change and move towards the real provision of equality. It is therefore essential initially to analyze the workforce so as to provide a baseline from which to assess progress.
while taking positive action it is even more necessary to have this baseline information in order to evaluate whether under representation, as lawfully specified, exists, and to what extent, so as to allow legalized policies to be introduced. The initial analysis must be frequently updated with equality monitoring data to assist identify key areas requiring change and, at later stages, those areas where further consideration is required. The data should, as a minimum, cover traditions, gender and disability which are the major areas covered by UK legislation.
The society categories used should enable a comparison with nationally accessible data and also be specific to the organization and reflect, if essential, particular local ethnic groups from which recruitment occurs.An analysis of the workforce is often one of the primary barriers that prevent optimistic action being taken by organizations. A thorough analysis is required in order to show that under representation exists. The workforce examination therefore needs to be convoyed by an analysis of the prospective workforce that may be local or national and may also require taking account of the particular skill area involved. Therefore among some organizations that are eager to overcome apparent under representation the problem of having enough data to prove that legalized positive action is needed can become insurmountable. Internally several organizations may have difficulties collecting ethnicity data on all of their current workforce as such data can only be collected voluntarily and individuals can often be suspicious of what the data will be used for. Externally organizations may have obscurities obtaining precise data about the accessible workforce within their particular recruitment skill/experience area due to a lack of very detailed data concerning local populations.
;Analyze the OrganizationUnless policies linking to equality and positive action are understood at every levels of an organization they are improbable to be effective. To be thriving, such policies need to become fundamental to the working of the organization and introduce the idea of equality management to the work of all those within the organization. It is as a result necessary to analyze the means the organization operates.
This analysis needs to believe basic elements of the organization’s operations such as recruitment and advertising procedures, the suitability of application forms, as well as any tests and interviews that are used. This must help to reveal particular problem areas, mainly those that may be acting as needless barriers for certain ethnic groups. These barriers must be removed in order to fulfill with the non-discrimination intention of the RRA.
The analysis must also expose recruitment and promotion obstacles that are essential and justified but that excessively affect particular ethnic groups. Hence, it can reveal the areas where positive action can be essential and lawful in order to overcome existing levels of under representation. Briefly the context contributing to successful positive action comprises:• A detailed programme of action that is detailed to the organization and identifies clear and pragmatic objectives;• The compilation of precise data about the current and potential workforce to permit realistic goals or targets to be set;• Effective monitoring systems that give information on progress and levels of achievement;• The support of all members of the organization, mainly those with key responsibilities, so as to reduce any prospective backlash and resistance. The Rationale for Taking Positive ActionThe reasons for organizations undertaking positive action can be drawn from several of the literature providing case studies of different types of instances that have been implemented by organizations in the UK (Pollert and Rees, 1992; Welsh et al., 1994). Several of this literature concentrates upon the legal obligation to address discrimination and the moral compulsion to provide equality (Taylor, 1992; EOR, 1987). Other examples argue the business benefits of providing greater equality and multiplicity through the use of positive action (EOR, 1994).
It is helpful briefly to consider the grounds that have been put forward in this literature for initiating positive action as it provides an indication of obligation to such policies as well as the preferred organizational outcomes. Numerous of these arguments have so far to be researched in order to reveal whether or not the predictable outcomes are in fact achieved as a result of adopting certain policies. Until these are in fact tested and documented by research it is indecisive what the additional benefits of taking positive action are. Without such information it is hard to encourage employers to take up these often controversial measures. This is perchance mainly the case with the ‘business benefits’ that some literature argues pursue from such actions.
Equal Opportunity AssuranceThe rising numbers of employers with an equal opportunity policy proposes that there is an increasing responsiveness of employers’ responsibilities towards the condition of social justice and equality. The UK is a multinational society in which those from minority groups, in spite of the survival of anti-discriminatory legislative protection for over twenty years, persist to suffer unfair discrimination. One way organizations have further articulated their commitment to tackling several of the existing inequalities has been through the overture of positive action. These schemes often seek to address past organizational inequalities. They might also have other benefits of improving relationships with minority ethnic groups or organizations within the local society or at a national level.
Strengthening such relationships can result in greater and wider sustain for positive action as well as improving its probability of success. Furthermore, positive action schemes that openly address specific areas of individual or organizational behavior might result in challenging other biased behavior that might eventually result in changing the attitudes of employees. This is frequently a desired long-term feature of antidiscrimination training that is accepted out as part of equality programmes (Taylor et al., 1997).;Business BenefitsMuch of present policy advice in the UK recommends that equality and diversity must be considered within organizations due to the affirmative effects they can have on business. This is principally true for ethnicity within the ‘Race for Opportunity’ national campaign, which uses key employers with a excellent track record in the area of equality to persuade other organizations to set targets for change in a number of areas of activity (Taylor, 1996).
One of the main ways in which organizations are thought to promote from equality and positive action plans is through an improved market image. Introducing an optimistic action scheme can assist organizations in overcoming preconceptions held by prospective employees and thus attract a wider pool of applicants. By increasing the range of applicants’ organizations might also benefit from recruiting individuals with a greater range of high quality skills. Positive action, by aiming a more diverse range of proper potential employees, permits an organization to have a wider recruitment net and thus can limit the impact of future labor shortages. Positive action may as well increase the motivation of existing employees due to opening up support procedures or opportunities.
Eventually the employment of a more varied range of employees could as well increase the prospect of winning contracts through an assumed better understanding of diverse types of communities and by meeting the contract observance requirements of certain organizations.;Legal ObligationsWhilst UK legislation has been stoutly criticized for being too weak it does include the likelihood of cases of discrimination being taken against an organization by individuals. Proof, however, suggests that the outcome of industrial tribunals, where the mainstreams of employment discrimination cases are heard, provides little incentive to make certain employers do not discriminate. The load of proof is on the individual and the response of tribunals tends to be unsympathetic (Lustgarten and Edwards, 1992: 273).
Also the compensation provided to individuals has simply recently had no upper limit whereas previous settlements leaned to be for comparatively small sums. The threat to employers is therefore more expected to be in terms of the bad publicity received rather than the fines forced where cases taken to tribunal are found to be justified. This is, in a way, the substitute to the positive image that can be engendered by developing equality and positive action initiatives. Though, no matter how committed an organization is to removing discrimination it is impossible to assure that no legal action will be taken against it. Hence, the better organization can reveal that equality policies continue to be developed the more compelling a defense can be presented and the less damaging publicity will be. Thus, some organizations might adopt positive action to assist overcome known inequalities that have subsisted in the hope that it will avert a legal case being taken.
;ConclusionsThree major types of positive action are lawful in current UK legislation: support measures to attract applicants; pre-entry training to raise the pool of potential applicants; in-service training to boost the prospective for career advancement. Taking lawful positive action relies stoutly on the principle of firstly proving under representation exists. This can often act as one of the first obstacles employers have to overcome.
The needed context in which positive action must occur in order to help ensure its success includes the improvement of an effective equal opportunities policy. Organizations must also carry out an analysis of the current and probable workforce in order to prove under representation and to recognize the potential labor/skill pool. An analysis of the organization must also be carried out in order to identify existing needless or discriminatory practice and procedures that positive action can aspire to overcome. Without this framework, organizations are improbable to be in a position to design appropriate positive action.
Likewise, it is improbable that any positive action will be accepted by other employees without resistance or that its outcome will be effective. The motivations for undertaking positive action can diverge tremendously and may be a result of a combination of factors. Three major types of motivation may exist.1. Organizations might have a genuine commitment to equality and the exclusion of unfair and unlawful discrimination.2. Employers may assume positive action for perceived business benefits of increased productivity, improved market image or improved competence of recruitment processes.
3. Companies may also bring in positive action in order to lessen the likelihood of legal cases being productively taken against them.Generally it does not matter what the motivations or underlying principle for taking positive action are, although this might suggest the degree of dedication given to the policies’ success. Whatever the reasons for initiating positive action, the most significant consideration is that it is designed properly and introduced into a supportive context that should ensure its success. It should also be remembered that positive action simply offers an alternative route to recompense for previous discrimination.
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