AI holds significant potential to improve our lives, but it also poses a profound challenge to the hard fought right to equality at work.
The Artificial Intelligence (Regulation and Workers’ Right) Private Members’ Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 17 May 2023 by MP, Mick Whitley.
While the precise content of the Bill is unknown, the central purpose behind it is to protect the rights of those who work alongside artificial intelligence (“AI”) and to preserve those rights for future generations.
The Bill has been introduced in response to growing concerns that workers are increasingly being managed and monitored by AI technologies. According to Government statistics, 68% of large companies in the UK and 15% of all British businesses had adopted at least one form of AI by January 2022.
AI holds significant potential to improve our lives, but it also poses a profound challenge to the hard fought right to equality at work. Amazon was forced to scrap an AI tool that had been used to sift through the CVs of job applicants after they discovered the tool had taught itself to downgrade applications from women. In another case, disabled job applicants felt they had been unfairly discriminated against by AI based on their voice and facial expressions.
The Artificial Intelligence (Regulation and Workers’ Right) Private Members’ Bill aims to regulate the use of and safeguard against the misuse of AI in the workplace by:
Strengthening existing equalities laws to prevent discrimination by algorithm
This includes amending the Data Protection Act 2018 to state that discriminatory data processing is always unlawful; as well as amending the Employment Rights Act to create a statutory right, enforceable in employment tribunals, that workers should not be subject to detrimental treatment because of the processing of inaccurate data.
The burden of proof in discrimination claims that challenged decisions made by AI would also be reversed, and equality impact audits would become a mandatory part of the data protection impact assessment, which employers would also be obliged to publish.
Establishing that “high-risk” AI should be subject to further regulation
This requires the Secretary of State to produce sector-specific guidance on the meaning of high-risk AI, with full input from trade unions and civil society.
Introducing a statutory duty for employers to meaningfully consult with employees and their trade unions before introducing AI into the workplace
The idea is that workers can shape a world being ever more frequently run by machines.
Establishing a universal and comprehensive right to human review of high-risk decisions made by AI
This would also include a right to human contact when high-risk decisions are being made.
Establishing a right to disconnect
Employers would be required to take steps to protect the privacy and work-life balance of their employees.
Although the Bill is still in its infancy, it is hoped that its introduction will kickstart a much-needed conversation about the steps that need to be taken to better protect workers in a world led by Artificial Intelligence.
We explore how AI may impact the legal industry in more depth on our blog.