The TUC has today (Monday) launched a new AI taskforce as it calls for “urgent” new legislation to safeguard workers’ rights and to ensure AI benefits all.
The taskforce will bring together leading specialists in law, technology, politics, HR and the voluntary sector.
Its chief mission will be to fill the current gaps in UK employment law by drafting new legal protections to ensure AI is regulated fairly at work for the benefit of employees and employers.
The taskforce aims to publish an expert-drafted AI and Employment Bill early in 2024 and will lobby to have it incorporated into UK law.
The work of the taskforce will be led by the TUC and assisted by a special advisory committee.
Members of that committee will include 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.
In addition, David Davis MP, Darren Jones MP, Mick Whitley MP and Chris Stephens MP will also sit on the committee.
The committee will be jointly chaired by:
The Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy will provide the secretariat for the taskforce.
The ‘AI and Employment Bill’ will be drafted by leading employment lawyers Robin Allen KC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy, with assistance from Cloisters barristers’ chambers.
“Way behind the curve”
The taskforce is launched as experts warn that the UK is “way behind the curve” on the regulation of AI, with UK employment law failing to keep pace with the development of new technologies and employers uncertain of how to fairly take advantage of new technologies.
The taskforce says AI is already making “high-risk, life changing” decisions about workers’ lives – such as line-managing, hiring and firing staff.
And AI is being used to analyse facial expressions, tone of voice and accents to assess candidates’ suitability for roles.
Left unchecked, this could lead to greater discrimination, unfairness and exploitation at work across the economy, the taskforce warns.
Meanwhile employers are purchasing and using systems without knowing fully the implications, such as whether they are discriminatory.
The TUC says the UK risks become an “international outlier” on the regulation of AI.
The EU, and other countries, have already drafted specific legislation to properly regulate AI at work, but at present the UK’s government’s stated position is for a ‘light touch’ approach.
Experts say ministers have yet to put in place the necessary “guardrails” to protect workers’ rights, with March’s AI White Paper proposing only a principles-based approach that lacks statutory force.
The TUC has previously called for a number of protections to be enshrined in law including:
This autumn the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will host a global summit on AI.
The taskforce says it is vital that workers’ groups and the wider voluntary sector are invited to attend alongside business groups and employers.
TUC Assistant General Secretary, Kate Bell, said:
“AI is already making life-changing decisions about the way millions work – including how people are hired, performance-managed and fired.
“But UK employment law is way behind the curve – leaving many workers vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination.
“We urgently need new employment legislation, so workers and employers know where they stand.
“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 at the University of Cambridge, said:
“I am delighted to co-chair the Artificial Intelligence and Employment Bill Advisory Group.
“Responsible and trustworthy AI can power huge benefits. But laws must be fit for purpose and ensure that AI works for all.
“AI safety isn’t just a challenge for the future and it isn’t just a technical problem. These are issues that both employers and workers are facing now, and they need the help from researchers, policy makers and civil society to build the capacity to get this right for society.”
Robin Allen KC and Dee Masters from the AI Law Consultancy said:
“Developing a new AI legal framework for workers and employers, in which the full benefits of AI technologies can be properly shared and enjoyed, is an urgent task.
“Developing the new AI legal framework for workers and employers requires input from experts of all kinds.
“The TUC’s innovative initiative, with experts from Tech UK, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), academia, the British Computer Society, major unions and the Ada Lovelace Institute, is a step change toward maximizing the benefits of AI for all.”
- Congress 2023 will be held in the ACC Liverpool (Kings Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool L3 4FP) from Sunday 10 September to Wednesday 13 September. Media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/applying-media-or-external-visitor-credentials and completing an online form. For more information, please contact the press office.
- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.
- About Minderoo Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy: The Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy is an independent team of academic researchers at the University of Cambridge, who are radically rethinking the power relationships between digital technologies, society and our planet.
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