TUC: Government Protecting Workers from Artificial Intelligence Decisions


Government Protecting Workers from Artificial Intelligence Decisions
Government Protecting Workers from Artificial Intelligence Decisions

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a type of computer science that creates machines and software to perform tasks that usually require humans, such as decision-making and speech recognition.

The Issue

AI-powered technologies are now making high-risk, life-changing decisions about workers' lives, including line-managing, hiring, and firing staff. The Trades Union Congress (TUC), which represents unions, is calling for stronger rules to protect workers from decisions made by AI systems.

Researchers have raised concerns about the use of AI in the workplace, particularly recruitment tools that use speech and video to determine a candidate's suitability for a job. They argue that the systems are unscientific and include biases.

How AI is Used in the Workplace

The TUC says AI is being used to analyze facial expressions, tone of voice, and accents to assess candidates' suitability for roles. Left unchecked, it argues, AI could lead to greater discrimination at work. For example, tools that analyze facial expressions may disadvantage candidates or employees with certain disabilities.

AI tools can also be used to track worker performance, sometimes making automated decisions to effectively fire employees. The TUC warns that AI could set unrealistic targets that then result in workers being put in dangerous situations that impact negatively on their both physical health and mental well-being.

Some employers require workers to carry devices that record data about their activity, which can then be analyzed. One warehouse worker told AI policy campaigners Connected by Data that it meant that if they took too many toilet breaks, it would be flagged, and they would have to explain why they weren't working.

The Government's Response

The government said the TUC's assessment was wrong and has said safeguards will remain in place. A spokesperson said it was committed to improving and upholding workers' rights. AI is set to drive growth and create new highly-paid jobs throughout the UK, while allowing us to carry out our existing jobs more efficiently and safely.

Last month, the government published its white paper on AI, which proposed spreading regulation of the technology across different existing bodies rather than creating a single new watchdog. According to the TUC, the paper offered only vague and flimsy guidance to regulators on how to ensure AI is used ethically at work, and no additional capacity or resource to cope with rising demand.

The TUC's Call for Action

The TUC wants firms to reveal how AI is being used to make decisions about staff. All decisions should be subject to a human review so that workers may challenge them, it says.

Labour's deputy leader and shadow secretary of state for the future of work, Angela Rayner, also supported the TUC's call, telling the BBC that AI was already transforming the economy. Workers must have a proper say in how technologies are implemented, she said. Labour will update employment rights and protections so they are fit for the modern economy.

Connected by Data told the BBC: The bill reduces the ability of workers to access data that is held about them, or to challenge how it is used, meaning they may never be able to know why their ability to earn a living has been threatened.


AI is a powerful tool that can help businesses operate more efficiently and safely. However, it is important to ensure that AI is used ethically and does not discriminate against workers. The TUC's call for stronger rules to protect workers from decisions made by AI systems is an important step in the right direction.

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