Affirmative Action Plan

Employers take various steps to ensure everyone is given equal opportunities based on their skills and abilities and that no one experiences discrimination on the basis of their personal characteristics. In the United States, these steps are outlined in a document called Affirmative Action Plan (AAP). Learn more about AAP here, and its equivalent in different countries. 

What is an Affirmative Action Plan? 

An Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) in employment is a program in the United States designed to promote equal employment opportunities and eliminate discrimination in the workplace. It highlights the employer’s commitment to take affirmative action to hire candidates on the basis of their ability and to support all employees throughout their tenure. 

Over the years, AAP developed to hire and support employees from underrepresented groups. This entails evaluating the composition of the current workforce to identify underrepresented groups based on race, gender, ethnicity, and other protected characteristics. After this, employers craft specific, measurable objectives to address disparities and achieve a more diverse and inclusive workforce. 

Overall,the goal of an Affirmative Action Plan is to create a fair and equitable workplace where all individuals have equal opportunities for employment and advancement, 

Affirmative Action Plan Requirements, Compliance, and Reporting

In the United States, a formal affirmative action plan is only required for federal contractors and subcontractors. 

When creating the plan, keep in mind that the following elements are required:

  • Policy Statement(s): A declaration of the organisation's commitment to affirmative action and equal employment opportunities.
  • Designation of Responsibilities: The assignment of specific individuals or teams responsible for implementing and managing the affirmative action plan.
  • Organisational Chart: A visual representation of the company's structure, showing the hierarchy and roles within the organisation.
  • Grievance Procedures: Defined processes for addressing and resolving complaints related to discrimination and affirmative action issues.
  • Problems/Barriers Identification Statement: An analysis of the existing challenges and barriers that hinder equal employment opportunities within the organisation.
  • Action Statement: A detailed plan outlining the steps and initiatives the organisation will take to address identified problems and promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Goals and Timetables: Specific, measurable objectives with deadlines set to achieve a more diverse and equitable workforce.

Do Other Countries Have an Affirmative Action Plan? 

Affirmative action plans are not unique to the United States; many countries have implemented similar measures to promote equal employment opportunities and address historical inequalities. Here’s a look at how affirmative action is approached in the Philippines, the UK, Singapore, and Australia.


While there’s no explicit law for employers to have a formal affirmative action plan, the Philippines have enacted several laws aimed at protecting the rights - including employment rights - of the women and other marginalised sectors. Here are some of these legislations:

For more information on the Philippine Employment Laws, you may read this guide

United Kingdom

In the UK, the equivalent of affirmative action is taking Positive Action. Positive Action is a part of the Equality Act of 2010, and allows employers to take measures that might involve giving preferential treatment to a group sharing a protected characteristic, provided it is a proportionate method. It is proportionate if it: 

  • helps members of that group overcome or reduce a disadvantage
  • meets their specific needs
  • encourages their participation in a particular activity

Note that taking a positive action is different from positive discrimination, with the latter being unlawful. Positive discrimination is when an employer favours an employee solely because of their protected characteristic, and does so without regard to the law. An example would be to appoint someone for a position only because of the personal characteristic they possess without scrutinising their skills. 

As positive action may be misunderstood and have legal implications, the government encourages employers to seek legal advice first before creating and implementing their plan.  


In Singapore, there’s no law that allows or prohibits employers from taking affirmative or positive action. However, like the Philippines, they also have anti-discrimination laws that may imply it’s allowed for them to take some affirmative action in certain circumstances. 

For example, employers may be allowed to give preferential treatment to some applicants who speak certain languages if they are in the field of teaching language. 

Learn more about Singapore’s Employment aws here


Australia has some affirmative action laws in place. For example, they have the “Affirmative measure for recruiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.” This law specifically states that agencies have “the flexibility to identify a vacancy as open only to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander persons. This includes short term non-ongoing vacancies that are not required to be advertised in the Gazette.”

On top of this, Australia also has anti-discrimination laws that prohibit employers to discrimination against a person on the basis of their protected characteristics. 

Learn more about the Employment Laws in Australia here

Best Practices in Implementing Affirmative Action

When implementing affirmative or positive action, it’s crucial to follow the legal guidelines, particularly those that prohibit discrimination. Taking an affirmative action to one group of employees may, after all, be seen as biassed, and employees may develop some misunderstandings. To be on the safe side, seek legal advice before creating or executing the affirmative action plan. 

Don’t forget to stay transparent as well. Offer strict criteria when taking positive action and maintain an open communication and dialogue with employees. 

Finally, continually review the affirmative action plan and revise when necessary.

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