The Commission has long been a supporter of employers, educators, and service providers using the exceptions under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 that allows them to implement ‘measures intended to achieve equality’. These exceptions enable employers to dismantle discriminatory barriers that have prevented people with particular attributes such as their race, sex, or disability, from gaining and retaining employment, receiving appropriate services, or getting an education.
The exceptions have been in the Act since its inception in 1985 but employers have been reluctant to use them, for fear of being perceived as favouring minority groups. Consequently, a genuine desire to make our institutions less discriminatory has been held back by risk-averse policy decision-making. That is why it is pleasing to see that things are changing.
The Public Sector Commission (PSC) approached the Commission with a draft policy giving the green light for government agencies to use measures intended to achieve equality in employment. The PSC and the Commission worked on the policy content, with the aim of ensuring that the exceptions are easily understood, using practical examples to assist employers when advertising vacancies or putting in place employment-based policies.
The result is the Public Sector Commissioner’s Circular ‘Measures to achieve equality in human resource management’, released in June 2018, and supported by the guideline ‘Employing for diversity - equal opportunity in public employment’, co-badged with the Equal Opportunity Commission. It is hoped that government employers will take on board these documents and adopt a robust and imaginative approach to recruitment and retention, knowing that the Public Sector Commission including the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment and Equal Opportunity Commission are there to support them.