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Employee reactions to positive action policies in the United Kingdom: Does the organization’s justification matter?

Marcinko, A. J. and Taylor, C. (2021) 'Employee reactions to positive action policies in the United Kingdom: Does the organization’s justification matter?', Journal of Economic Psychology, 87 . p. 102453.


Affirmative action remains a contentious topic in both research and practice. While advocates suggest that such action is necessary to overcome demographic imbalances in the labor market, some research shows that these policies can prompt undesirable employee reactions that negate their value. While positive discrimination (i.e., recruiting or promoting solely based on a protected characteristic) remains illegal in the United Kingdom, organizations have increasingly begun adopting positive action measures (i.e., measures aimed at alleviating disadvantage or under-representation based on protected characteristics). However, there is little research looking at how these policies specifically affect employee attitudes or how different organizational rationales for positive action might moderate these effects. This lack of research is even more notable in the UK context. In two experimental studies of UK professionals (N = 353) we find that perceived organizational justice explained the relationship between positive action and affective commitment / turnover intention. However, evidence supporting the effect of organizational rationale was limited.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 14 April 2023.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:© 2021 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:10 October 2021
Date deposited:29 November 2021
Date of first online publication:14 October 2021
Date first made open access:14 April 2023

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