Staff ‘hired and fired by algorithm’

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned about what it calls “huge gaps” in UK employment law over the use of artificial intelligence at work.

The TUC said workers could be “hired and fired by algorithm”, and new legal protections were needed.

Among the changes it is calling for is a legal right to have any “high-risk” decision reviewed by a human.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the use of AI at work stood at “a fork in the road”.

“AI at work could be used to improve productivity and working lives. But it is already being used to make life-changing decisions about people at work – like who gets hired and fired.

“Without fair rules, the use of AI at work could lead to widespread discrimination and unfair treatment – especially for those in insecure work and the gig economy,” she warned.

Many workplaces already use automated decision making for simple tasks. For example, Uber assigns driving jobs to its drivers automatically, by computer, and Amazon is known to use AI monitoring systems to watch its staff in its warehouses.

And many firms already use an automated system with no human oversight in the first stage of the hiring process, to narrow the field.

But as AI becomes more sophisticated, the fear is that it will be entrusted with more serious, high-risk decisions, such as analysing those performance metrics to figure out who should be first in line for promotion – or being let go.

That can happen even when a human is involved, a TUC report warns, thanks to automated decision making.


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