Thursday, 21 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
56. Miss M. Wallace asked the Minister for Labour if he will outline the measures which have been undertaken by employers and trade unions pursuant to their commitment in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress to work to introduce positive action programmes to encourage women in all areas of business.
Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen): The Programme for Economic and Social Progress provides for the continuation of positive action initiatives being undertaken  by Government in respect of the public sector and recognises that a number of companies within the private sector are operating positive action programmes. It also acknowledges that clear guidance has been provided on this matter by ICTU and FIE.
I have also undertaken, in line with a commitment in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, to develop the equality focus award scheme this year in association with the Employment Equality Agency. This scheme is designed to stimulate companies to adopt personnel policies which include positive action by commending those organisations which have taken exemplary measures. It is hoped that this will increase the level of awareness among Irish employers of the benefits of positive action programmes. Additional funding has been provided to the EEA in 1992 to enable it to develop the equality focus scheme.
I would like to commend the EEA on the recent publication of its “Model Equal Opportunities Policy”. This model policy, which has been welcomed by the FIE and by the Irish branch of the Institute for Personnel Management, provides practical guidelines for employers on how to develop effective equal opportunity policies at company level.
I would urge employers to make greater use of the positive action provision at section 15 of the Employment Equality Act, 1977 which permits special training and encouragement for persons of one sex to enable them to take up opportunities for doing work where it can be shown that few or no members of that sex was engaged in that type of work in the previous 12 months.
I welcome the complementary provision which has been included in the new Protocol on Social Policy as part of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union. The purpose of the new Treaty provision is to encourage employers to pursue positive action measures intended to “make it easier for women to pursue a vocational activity or to prevent or compensate for  disadvantages in their professional careers”.
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