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Unconscious bias training to be phased out for civil servants

The government is encouraging the police and the NHS to review its training approaches following research into the effects of unconscious bias training. 

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Parliamentary secretary: "Diversity training as a standalone exercise can undermine such efforts if it appears to be a ‘tick box exercise’"
Parliamentary secretary: "Diversity training as a standalone exercise can undermine such efforts if it appears to be a ‘tick box exercise’"

Following the research, ministers have concluded unconscious bias training will be phased out across civil service departments.

 

In an announcement made this week (December 15), parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, Julia Lopez, explained that earlier this year, the Government Equalities Office commissioned the Behavioural Insights Team for a summary of the evidence on unconscious bias and diversity training. The report highlights that there is no evidence the training changes behaviour in the long-term or improves workplace equality in terms of representation of women, ethnic minorities or other minority groups.

 

Unconscious bias training typically aims to raise awareness of the potential biases and cognitive shortcuts that may negatively affect decision-making and behaviour in the workplace. The intent is usually to reduce both explicit and implicit bias towards members of particular groups that share characteristics protected under law and change behaviour.

 

Lucille Thirlby, assistant general secretary of the FDA civil servants’ union, called on ministers to find out what they will replace the training with.

 

Lopez said: “While there is clearly a role for training to support a more inclusive workplace and civil service, evidence also suggests that even the broader category of ‘diversity training’ as a standalone exercise can undermine such efforts if it appears to be a ‘tick box exercise’.

 

“The civil service will therefore integrate principles for inclusion and diversity into mainstream core training and leadership modules in a manner which facilitates positive behaviour change.”

 

The civil service’s new strategy will be published in the new year.

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