Boris Johnson’s government has decided to scrap unconscious bias training for civil servants in England, with ministers claiming it does not work.
The training is aimed at addressing patterns of prejudicial thinking when it comes to race, gender and sexuality, and is widespread in workplaces across the UK.
The decision was criticised by race equality campaigners and the FDA civil servants’ union. Lucille Thirlby, the FDA’s assistant general secretary, urged ministers to explain what the training will be replaced with.
She added: “How will they ensure people are not discriminated against? It’s easier to attack something than do something positive about it.”
In a statement, Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez said: “Unconscious bias training does not achieve its intended aims. It will therefore be phased out in the civil service. We encourage other public sector employers to do likewise.”
The Cabinet Office cited a study commissioned by the Government Equalities Office that found there is “no evidence” that the training exercises improved equality in the workplace.
The training had stirred anger among Conservative MPs agitating against a perceived “woke agenda”. In September, backbench Tory Ben Bradley refused to take part in voluntary unconscious bias training provided by the Commons – calling it “Orwellian”.
Responding to the government’s decision, Mr Bradley tweeted: “Sizeable step on the road back to common sense. Training built on the premise we’re all internally and eternally racist was hardly ever likely to unify; only to divide. Based on no science or evidence, studies have shown negative consequences. Good riddance.”
Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust think tank, warned the government not to “backtrack” on anti-racism training.
Ms Begum said she accepted existing unconscious bias training was not always successful, but urged the government to replace it with something which addressed “ingrained views” at a more “fundamental level”.
Michael Gove, minister for the Cabinet Office, is set to make a statement in the Commons later on Tuesday, giving more detail on the decision.