The Papa Pounamu requirement for addressing bias ensures Public Service organisations understand that they can and should be taking action to address bias and discrimination in all its forms.

Te tikanga o te whakatau i te rītaha What addressing bias means

A bias is a tendency or prejudice either toward or against something or someone. We all have biases, and they can be complex and challenging to identify and manage. There are many different types of biases, both unconscious and conscious.

In the Papa Pounamu work programme, addressing bias means more than just unconscious bias training. It means Public Service employees need to understand bias, how it operates and how we can act to mitigate. This needs to be supported by changes to workplace systems and structures to reduce bias from occurring.

Te hira o te whakatau rītaha i roto i Ratonga Tūmatanui Why addressing bias matters in the Public Service

We know bias and discrimination exist in our workplaces. Pay gaps continue to exist as does ethnic under-representation in leadership levels. While we have made good progress in closing the gender pay gap and in increasing Māori and ethnic representation, we still have a lot of work to do.

Addressing bias is one of the most powerful ways our Public Service can create fair, diverse and inclusive workplaces where everyone can succeed and be valued. It allows the Public Service to engage with public servants on how we can improve inclusion, and to design and deliver services that meet the needs of all New Zealanders, now and into the future.

While learning can be an effective tool for increasing awareness of bias and reducing bias, it is unlikely to eliminate bias on its own. Any learning solution can be further supplemented by other resources and should promote ongoing learning and behaviour change.

Te whakatau i te rītaha i roto i te Ratonga Tūmatanui How to address bias in the Public Service

Organisations are encouraged to adopt bias learning solutions for their people. People leaders should lead by example by:

  • completing bias learning
  • encouraging all employees to do the same.

They should also ensure ongoing reflection and action as Public Service organisations work to address bias over time. We need to identify and mitigate bias as individuals, as teams and through our workplace systems and structures. This will be an ongoing journey. To make positive progress organisations must intentionally plan, do and report.


  • Planning

    Each organisation must determine what the best bias learning solution is for its people. Different organisations will have different solutions and may require more than one in-house approach.

    Your organisation should outline its planned approach to address bias in its annual plans. These plans should recognise the need for both individual learning and for workplace structural and system change.


    “We plan on addressing bias by having our employees undertake bias learning. We expect that by Dec 2020, all our people leaders/managers will have completed bias learning and that 75% of all other employees will have completed bias learning by June 2021. Teams will have ongoing conversations about bias awareness and ways to mitigate it. We will also review our recruitment policies and practices to identify where bias occurs and how we can make changes to mitigate bias from occurring.”

  • Doing

    Public Sector organisations are expected to create a culture that prioritises fairness. That means supporting employees with time and resources to learn and recognising and removing bias from day-to-day practices and workplace systems and structures.

    Undertaking bias learning is the first step in creating this culture. This establishes a shared understanding across our Public Service on how bias and discrimination occur. It also helps us to work together to remove bias from workplace structures and systems.


    “Our people leaders lead by example and commit to completing bias learning and embedding this learning in their day-to-day activities. They actively support all employees to undertake their own bias learning and back them to remove or reduce bias whenever possible in their day-to-day activities. People leaders set aside time when convening recruitment panels, making recruitment decisions and having progression or development conversations to mitigate bias. The HR team reviews all recruitment policies and practices in line with the Gender Pay Taskforce guidance.”


  • Reporting

    In annual reports, you are expected to include specific evidence or examples of action that demonstrate progress made in addressing bias within your organisation.


    “We have promoted the availability of bias learning through our staff intranet and through our leaders. All people leaders have completed bias learning. Over 70% of all other employees have completed bias learning. We have started to make structural and system changes by applying the Gender Pay Taskforce guidance in all our HR processes. We use the principles from the Gender Pay Taskforce guidance across all diversity dimensions.”

  • Case study

    Inland Revenue: Addressing Bias 

    Inland Revenue recognises that unconscious bias impacts us all and acknowledges the importance of their people understanding, recognising and knowing how to address bias. Inland Revenue have been working with their employee-led networks to understand opportunities to strengthen their approach to mitigate bias as recognising and mitigating bias is key to achieving Inland Revenue’s D&I goals.

    Inland Revenue seeks to create a strong awareness of their diverse workforce, as this will strengthen their frontline services. For Inland Revenue, prioritising learning is an important way to do this. Inland Revenue offers staff opportunities to complete online learning to understand and mitigate bias. They reported the following learning completion rates: 93% of their people and 94% of leaders. 

    To encourage completion, Inland Revenue ensured that the learning modules are easy to understand and made accessible for all learners. Inland Revenue monitored completion rates offered additional support when it was low. For example, dedicated time to complete the learning modules was provided for staff in customer-facing roles. To reinforce the importance of mitigating unconscious bias, the learning is now a mandatory part of induction for new starters. Additional ‘just in time’ refresher learning is now being rolled out for leaders, with a particular focus on recruitment and selection processes. 

    The success of this has been reflected in Inland Revenue’s People Experience results where it was reported that there was an increase in people feeling included. Having a greater understanding of bias has also been a factor in selection decisions, with a positive impact on the representation of woman in more senior and higher paid roles, and a reduction in the pay gaps for Māori and Pacific people over the last 12 months. 

    Focusing on leaders, and the decisions they make, Inland Revenue has developed a range of guidance to embed unconscious bias learning. The development of resources will support decisionmakers to navigate a variety of everyday decisions, for example within recruitment, flexible working requests, as well as having effective Whanake (Inland Revenue’s performance approach) kōrero. Inland Revenue has taken an active approach to encourage staff participation by working on the barriers and supporting their people to participate. 

Ngā rauemi whakatau rītaha Tools and resources for addressing bias

All efforts to address bias should be recognised and supported. This means organisations should:

  • support employees to undertake bias learning
  • take a much broader approach to address bias and to achieve system-wide change
  • begin to change workplace structures and systems to prevent bias occurring.

Your organisation may already be using a form of bias learning. If you do not have a current bias learning solution, we encourage you to work with your people to explore your options. Some potential options are:

  • adopt a pre-existing bias learning solution
  • use a ready-made learning solution delivered by external providers
  • tailor or customise your own addressing bias learning solution.

Free online learning solutions

  • Microsoft E-Learning Unconscious Bias

    This is an interactive module with information, questions and videos. There is also an accompanying worksheet you can download to help people practice what they have learned. This has been designed for an American audience and specifically for those working in office environments.

    E-Learning Unconscious Bias — Microsoft 

  • Ohio State University – Implicit Bias Module Series

    This is an interactive module with information, questions and videos. This has been designed for an American audience and specifically for those in education settings. However, the content in Modules 1, 3 and 4 is general enough to be useful to most audiences.

    Implicit Bias Module Series — Ohio State University 

  • Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand – Understanding bias in health care

    These modules are specifically designed for those working in healthcare roles. They are a set of 3 videos with an accompanying quiz.

    Understanding bias in health care — Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand  

Free resources developed by Public Service organisations

This Public Service organisation has developed a resource and made it available for other organisations to use. Contact the organisation for more information.

External providers with bias learning solutions

Agencies can purchase a ready-made bias learning solution. Some of these may involve e-learning, others may be facilitated training or a mix. We have listed some external providers that some agencies are working with as part of their efforts to address bias and planning for learning. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Diversity Works

    Diversity Works in partnership with SkillPod has developed an online unconscious bias learning solution available for purchase. Diversity Works also offers facilitated bias training.  

    E-diversity Online Learning — DiversityWorks

  • Cognicity

    E-learning on unconscious knowledge and bias is available for purchase. Cognicity can also supplement this learning with facilitated sessions.

    E-Learning — Cognicity

  • Diversitas

    Unconscious bias awareness e-learning and live group facilitation is available for purchase. Diversitas can tailor-design the content of this course to meet specific needs if requested.

    Unconscious bias awareness training — Diversitas

Developing your own bias learning solution

Your organisation may feel it is well placed to develop its own content either in-house or through an external partnership. We encourage organisations who are considering this option to:

  • read the Gender Pay Taskforce’s Guidance on Career Progression, Breaks and Leave to help inform the design process
  • purchase the intellectual property for any new learning solutions they commission so they can be shared freely.   
  • Key considerations of bias learning

    The Gender Pay Taskforce has produced guidance on career progression, breaks and leave, which provides some recommendations for what best practice conscious and unconscious bias training and learning should do. These recommendations can help agencies to improve the calibre of training delivered over time. The guidance recommends that learning solutions and training should:

    • change behaviour, not just raise awareness
    • focus on gender and other forms of bias, such as ethnic bias and bias against disabled employees, and employees who are members of Rainbow communities
    • give attention to the compounding impacts on many employees of gender and other forms of bias, including ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation
    • examine the specific values of New Zealand European culture and the nature and impact of ethnic privilege, as well as male privilege
    • provide positive counter-stereotypic examples.

    In addition, learning solutions and training should:

    • acknowledge that work in this area can be uncomfortable and challenging for individuals and agencies
    • involve participants in identifying workplace practices that can perpetuate bias, and in reviewing their own decision-making practices for scope for bias to influence their decisions
    • offer practical strategies to help participants mitigate bias in their decision-making, such as techniques to slow down thinking and create pause points for reflection
    • provide follow up opportunities for participants to practice these strategies.

    Guidance on career progression, breaks and leave(PDF, 2.1 MB) 

Bias mitigation in workplace structures and systems

Changes to organisational structures and systems are an essential part of reducing the impact of bias in the workplace. As our people develop their knowledge of bias they are better placed to recognise and reduce it in their everyday activities.

There is a range of ways that individuals and organisations can reduce bias in our workplaces. For example, a human resource professional will be better placed to reduce bias in recruitment processes after they have completed bias learning. It is through this type of organisational change that we can have the most positive impact.

Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are essential parts of the Public Service. We respect and value who we work with and serve, and collect and report on diversity and inclusion data to ensure we meet our commitments.

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