The Ban on ‘Some’ Civil Service EDI Jobs

By Steve Chilcott

It was announced over the weekend that ‘Minister for Common Sense’, Esther McVey, will today (Monday 13 May 2024) say in a speech that public money is being wasted on “woke hobby horses” across Whitehall. She is therefore set to announce a banning of any new roles across the Civil Service which are solely devoted to EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) and which are outside of human resources.  

McVey, who is a Cabinet Office minister without portfolio, also stated over the weekend in an article published in the Sunday Telegraph, that “all EDI roles within the Civil Service will be consolidated into their department’s HR teams, and Ministers and their Permanent Secretaries will ensure that these teams are focused on their statutory obligations around EDI – the things we are legally required to do which have a proven benefit, not unproven diversity work which has no basis in law.”

New guidance is also being developed that will stop all external EDI spending across the Civil Service unless it is signed off and pre authorised by Government Ministers.

Arms-length bodies that spend the most on external EDI will be called in for meetings with the Minister to account for how their EDI work benefits taxpayers. McVey, stated in the Sunday Telegraph article that the public sector must not become a “pointless job creation scheme for the politically correct”.

The MP for Tatton in Cheshire also stated that the amount of staff time taken up by diversity programmes was “a major concern”. “Time and money which should be spent on the core purpose of the public sector – delivering for the public – is being wasted on woke hobby horses of activist employees.

“Most of these kinds of EDI programmes – especially when delivered by private companies or campaigning organisations – are not transparent, and their benefits unproven. If we can’t prove their worth, then they don’t pass the public interest test. So I’m determined to stop it.”

McVey also highlighted that diversity should be more about differences in opinion than other characteristics, and that the service should be about ‘merit’ first and foremost. 

Fair Job UK welcomes these steps to de-politicise the Civil Service, something at the very heart of our mission to help all employers take politics out of the workplace and focus on their core aims. Clearly, the Civil Service is a good example, where there has been significant back-door politicisation’ of the service which now requires a significant shake up. We also welcome the statements regarding the importance of both diversity of opinion and of meritocracy. 

Multiple reports, including the report produced by the Government’s own ‘Inclusion at Work’ panel, have shown that so many EDI initiatives are being run without any evidence base for their content, without evaluation of their impact and which are frequently having negative impact on the workforce. It showed EDI interventions are frequently proving to be polarising, counterproductive and even unlawful, misapplying equalities legislation. 

Fair Job UK particularly welcomes the greater scrutiny of the provision of EDI initiatives and training by external providers, which we believe has had little scrutiny and can cause the most damage. EDI interventions can be incredibly polarising and present unlawful perspectives and ideological dogma as unchallenged fact. We know that both critical race theory and gender ideology have both become ever present core aspects of much EDI training and initiatives in recent years. The application of these theories has been challenged in a number of employment tribunals. These tribunals have found that the detrimental treatment that those who have been brave enough to challenge the theories have been exposed to, has been unlawful

We don’t believe that all EDI is bad. It is hugely important that workplaces are completely free of discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Every possible step should be taken to eradicate these and prevent them from happening in the workplace. People should be confident that they are able to work within their roles free from being bullied, harassed or treated with anything other than trust and respect.

We note that even though the Cabinet Office has declined to reveal the number of non-HR staff in the Civil Service who currently work solely on EDI, the Inclusion at Work report stated that based on Freedom of Information requests to 6,000 public authorities, there are an incredible estimated 10,000 EDI jobs in total across the entire public sector, at a cost of £557 million a year to the UK taxpayer.

It is not currently clear why the Minister’s ban on new EDI roles is only in relation to those which sit outside of HR departments, or why the huge number of existing filled roles is not being tackled. We believe that the majority of existing roles already sit within and report to HR teams. This announcement may therefore have little actual impact on the current status quo.

Though the Government’s message of greater scrutiny on EDI in the Civil Services is certainly welcome, we await to see the actual impact.

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