The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has launched a groundbreaking AI taskforce, aiming to address the pressing need for new legislation that safeguards the rights of workers and ensures that artificial intelligence benefits both employees and employers.

This initiative comes in response to concerns that the UK’s labour market is facing an uncertain future, characterised by a lack of regulation in the rapidly evolving field of AI technology.

The TUC’s AI taskforce will consist of a diverse group of experts, including leading employment lawyers, academics, politicians, and technologists.

Their primary objective is to bridge the current gaps in UK employment law by proposing comprehensive legal protections to regulate AI fairly in the workplace.

The taskforce has set an ambitious target to release an expert-drafted AI and Employment Bill in early 2024 and will actively lobby for its incorporation into UK law.

This initiative aims to provide much-needed clarity on the use of AI in workplaces for both employees and employers.

Wide-ranging coalition

The taskforce’s work will be led by the TUC and will be supported by a special advisory committee comprising Tech UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the University of Oxford, the British Computer Society, CWU, GMB, USDAW, Community, Prospect, and the Ada Lovelace Institute. Additionally, MPs David Davis, Darren Jones, Mick Whitley, and Chris Stephens will serve on the committee.

The committee’s joint chairs will be Kate Bell, the TUC Assistant General Secretary, and Gina Neff, the Executive Director of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy at the University of Cambridge. The Minderoo Centre will provide the secretariat for the taskforce.

Addressing the AI regulation gap

The TUC’s AI taskforce launch coincides with growing concerns about the UK’s lagging position in AI regulation. Experts have warned that the country is falling behind in keeping pace with the development of AI technology, leaving both employees and employers uncertain about how to navigate the new AI landscape.

AI is already being used to make significant decisions in the workplace, including line management, hiring, and firing decisions. It is also employed to analyse facial expressions, tone of voice, and accents during candidate assessments. Without proper regulation, these applications of AI could lead to increased discrimination and exploitation in the workplace.

The TUC emphasises that the UK risks becoming an international outlier in AI regulation compared to the EU and other countries, which have already drafted legislation to regulate AI in the workplace.

Currently, the UK government’s stance is described as a ‘light touch’ approach, lacking the necessary statutory safeguards.

Key protections sought

The taskforce is advocating for several key protections to be enshrined in law, including:

  1. A legal duty on employers to consult trade unions when using “high-risk” and intrusive AI in the workplace.
  2. A legal right for all workers to have a human review of AI-generated decisions to challenge unfair and discriminatory outcomes.
  3. Amendments to the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and Equality Act to prevent discriminatory algorithms.
  4. A legal right for workers to ‘switch off’ from work to create designated “communication-free” time in their lives.

Upcoming AI summit

To address these critical issues, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is scheduled to host a global AI summit this autumn. The TUC taskforce is advocating for the inclusion of workers’ groups and the voluntary sector alongside business groups and employers at the summit.

TUC Assistant General Secretary Kate Bell underscored the urgency of AI regulation, stating, “Without proper regulation of AI, our labour market risks turning into a wild west. We all have a shared interest in getting this right.”

Professor Gina Neff, Executive Director of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, highlighted the importance of AI working for everyone, saying, “Responsible and trustworthy AI can power huge benefits. But laws must be fit for purpose and ensure that AI works for all.”

Leading employment lawyers Robin Allen KC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy emphasised the urgency of developing a new legal framework for AI, calling the TUC’s initiative a step toward maximising AI’s benefits for all workers and employers.

As the TUC’s AI taskforce begins its work, the UK’s labour market is on the cusp of a transformation that could shape the future of work for generations to come. The taskforce’s efforts will play a crucial role in ensuring that AI is harnessed responsibly and equitably in the workplace.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.