By Daily Mail Reporter
Row as employers given green light to positively discriminate when hiring women
Businesses will be permitted to hire women over equally qualified men under new ‘positive action’ legislation unveiled today.
The changes, announced by Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, are designed to increase female representation in Britain’s workplaces and also allow employers to appoint ethnic minority candidates over equally qualified white jobseekers.
But there are fears the new laws could lead to possible unfair discrimination and potential lawsuits.
The changes come after new figures suggested women remain under-represented in many areas of business, despite their increasing success in schools and universities.
Ms Featherstone today insisted, however, that the changes would give women and others a fairer deal in the workplace without causing unjust treatment of men or excessive bureaucracy for employers.
When deciding whether candidates are equally qualified, employers will not have to judge solely on the basis of formal or academic qualifications and will also be able to take into account an applicant’s ‘general ability, suitability, competence and experience’.
That will raise fears that such decisions could be highly subjective and trigger possible legal action for unfair discrimination by rejected candidates, although ministers insist that the new laws will help to protect employers.
As well as ‘positive action’ to help women, firms could also be allowed to use the new laws to increase the proportion of disabled, gay or transgender employees on their staff.
In a separate move, employers will also be asked to carry out equality pay audits in a bid to close the gender gap in the remuneration given to men and women.