A concept analysis of positive action in health and education

Although the overall equality and diversity agenda receives high-profile media coverage and continues to be well debated in academic circles, there is significantly less conceptual analysis of the nature of the anti-discriminatory tools that employers can call upon. This paper provides an analysis of the anti-discriminatory measure known as positive action as currently employed within the health and social care arenas in the UK. Emphasis is placed on employment in further education (FE), higher education (HE) and the National Health Service (NHS), paying particular regard to the equality strands of disability, ethnicity and gender. A modified concept analysis framework has been adopted using an inclusive literature review approach. Positive action has three significant conceptual dimensions – the legislative, the practical and the political. We can see this in operation at various levels: so that statutory equality bodies such as the Commission for Racial Equality, or the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights will explain the application of the legislative concept, managers in their workplaces expand the concept of positive action into practical workforce diversity measures, and then this positive action is communicated through a variety of media, often reflecting the perceptions of those involved in the political agenda and priorities of their constituencies. This analysis of the concepts of positive action should be considered as groundwork, and could be extended to incorporate the equality strands of age, religion and belief and sexual orientation, or used to discuss applications within the wider public and private sectors and provide further international comparative analysis.

Author(s): Mark RD Johnson, Uduak E Archibong, Anne L Bucktrout, Sabir I Giga, Fahmida Ashraf, Carol Baxter

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