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Technology managing people - The worker experience

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Key findings

These are the key worker and trade union objectives that have emerged from the first stage of the TUC’s AI project

Worker voice

  • Secure strong collective bargaining on technology at work and data.
  • Achieve more worker consultation on the development, introduction, and operation of new technologies.
  • Empower workers and trade unions with technical knowledge, understanding and vocabulary, to enable negotiation, communication, organising and lobbying.

Fairness and equality

  • Secure ethical and socially responsible development of AI, for the benefit of all, not only employers and commercial interests.
  • Ensure equality of outcome and access, including non-discriminatory outcomes from use of AI-powered technology and equal access for all.


  • Increase availability of accessible and understandable information on how AI technology works, but also on how worker data is used to inform AI powered tools, and across AI platforms.
  • Increase worker awareness of when AI is operating and ensure consent is obtained where appropriate.

Worker wellbeing

  • Protect workers’ physical and mental health.
  • Help workers establish a decent work/life balance and appropriate boundaries between work and personal life, including when working from home and in relation to use of digital devices.
  • Ensure employers meet regulatory health and safety obligations, but also decent work practices and standards agreed with the workforce.
  • Ensure effective enforcement of regulatory health and safety obligations.

Lawful AI

  • Ensure that AI deployed in the workplace is lawful and that where it is not, workers have access to legal redress.
  • Secure effective regulatory protection against infringement of employment rights, including rights to privacy, data protection and non-discrimination.
  • Ensure effective enforcement of rights with timely intervention by regulators, as well as mechanisms to prevent and deter use of unlawful AI.


  • Encourage a collaborative approach, with workers, trade unions, employers, technologists, regulators and government working together.
  • Facilitate more active engagement with technologists by trade unions and workers.

Control over data

  • Educate and inform workers and trade union reps regarding the value of personal data, the implications of data ownership, and the data components of AI systems.
  • Enhance worker awareness of how employers use their data.
  • Ensure workers understand, control and influence how their data is used by employers.
  • Data used in AI components must be accurate and fair data.


  • Ensure that we work with and learn from international partners and take into account how international relations and trade deals may impact on data control and transparency.


  • Initiate the development of AI technologies at work which can be used for the benefit of workers and trade unions.
  • Investigate worker/trade union-led ways in which data can be collected and used to further worker and trade union interests.

Download full report (pdf)


This report is intended to raise awareness of the experience of workers and trade unions when artificial intelligence (AI) is used by employers to carry out people-management functions, and to identify objectives to ensure that the interests of workers are not overlooked in the use of AI.

Over the past few years, there has been nothing short of a technological revolution going on at work.

However, while the impact of automation on functions such as the manufacture of goods and provision of retail services is well recognised, far less attention has been given to the rapid development of AI to carry out management functions.

Aspects of the employment relationship (for example, decisions on recruitment, line management, monitoring and training) are increasingly being managed by AI, instead of by a person.

When we asked workers about their experience of technologies making or informing decisions about them at work, 22 per cent who responded said they had experience of use of technologies of this type for absence management, 15 per cent for ratings, 14 per cent for work allocation, 14 per cent for timetabling shifts, and 14 per cent in the assessment of training needs and allocation.

The use of AI in this way has significant implications for workers in terms of their employment rights, such as their rights to equality, privacy, and data protection, their physical and mental wellbeing, and wider issues such as the balance of power between employers and the workforce, and democracy at work.

And yet many people do not know what these AI-powered management tools are, how they operate, and what their impact is. Indeed, it is very likely that these technologies are far more widespread than our survey results suggest.

When we asked workers whether it was possible that the AI-powered technologies we had highlighted to them were being used at their workplace, but that they were just not aware of this, a shocking 89 per cent that responded said either “yes” or “not sure”.

We suspect this is largely due to a lack of consultation and transparency regarding the use of AI at work, and in relation to the collection, use and ownership of worker data.

Our research revealed that only 28 per cent of workers are comfortable with technology being used to make decisions about people at work.

This report highlights these issues by considering:

  • the worker experience of AI-powered technologies being used for management purposes
  • the impact on workers of the use of these technologies
  • objectives to ensure AI technologies meet worker and trade union needs.

Our report is informed by a TUC survey of both workers and trade union reps, as well as BritainThinks polling and a literature review.
The report is the product of the first stage of a TUC project on AI and the employment relationship.

The second stage of the project will build on the objectives identified in this report. These objectives include achieving stronger consultation and transparency over the use of AI at work, a focus on the importance of worker wellbeing, achieving fair, lawful use of AI that is accessible and useful to all, and increasing worker control and understanding of data.

A legal and policy report with recommendations for reform will follow in early 2021, and a guide for trade union representatives later in 2021.

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