Monday April 19, 2021
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Unions and legal experts warn of "huge gaps" in British law over use of AI at work

25/3/2021

Unions and legal experts have today warned that "huge gaps" in British law over the use of AI at work could lead to "widespread" discrimination and unfair treatment at work.

A new report - carried out for the TUC by leading employment rights lawyers Robin Allen QC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy - says that employment law is failing to keep pace with the rapid expansion of AI at work.

The report says unless urgent new legal protections are put in place, workers will become increasingly vulnerable and powerless to challenge "inhuman" forms of AI performance management.

In an unprecedented move, the TUC has today issued a joint call to tech companies, employers and government to support a new set legal reforms for the ethical use of AI at work.

The TUC says these legal reforms should include:

  • A legal duty on employers to consult trade unions on the use of "high risk" and intrusive forms of AI in the workplace.
  • A legal right for all workers to have a human review of decisions made by AI systems so they can challenge decisions that are unfair and discriminatory.
  • Amendments to the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and Equality Act to guard against discriminatory algorithms.
  • A legal right to ‘switch off' from work so workers can create "communication free" time in their lives.

Hired and fired by algorithm

The report highlights how the use of AI has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, with AI-powered technologies now making "high-risk, life changing" decisions about workers' lives.

These decisions include selecting candidates for interview, day-to-day line management, performance ratings, shift allocation and deciding who is disciplined or made redundant. 

And AI is being used to analyse facial expressions, tone of voice and accents to assess candidates' suitability for roles.

Left unchecked, the report warns that AI could lead to greater discrimination with workers in the gig economy and insecure work particularly at risk.

The TUC says that without the right to a human review of decisions, workers could be hired and fired entirely by algorithm.

A copy of the report can be found at: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Technology_Managing_People_2021_Report_AW_0.pdf 

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