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TUC calls for AI to be regulated in the workplace

The UK is losing the “race against time” to regulate AI in the workplace, unions are warning.

The TUC said employment law is failing to keep pace with the rapid speed of technological change,  leaving many workers vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination.

The union organisation published a “ready-to-go” legal blueprint for regulating AI in the workplace, with a suggested Bill developed in partnership with legal experts.

It sets out new legal rights and protections including a legal duty on employers to consult trade unions on the use of high risk and intrusive forms of AI in the workplace and protections against unfair dismissal by AI.

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The TUC called on all political parties to support AI regulation in the workplace, describing it as an “urgent national priority”.

AI is already making high-risk, life-changing decisions about workers’ lives, such as line-managing, hiring and firing staff and is being used to analyse facial expressions, tone of voice and accents to assess candidates’ suitability for roles, said the TUC.

It warned that the UK is at risk of becoming an international outlier on AI regulation, highlighting that other countries such as the US, China, Canada and those in the EU, were implementing new laws for how AI should be used.

TUC assistant general secretary Kate Bell said: “UK employment law is simply failing to keep pace with the rapid speed of technological change. We are losing the race to regulate AI in the workplace.

“AI is already making life-changing calls in the workplace, including how people are hired, performance managed and fired.

“We urgently need to put new guardrails in place to protect workers from exploitation and discrimination. This should be a national priority.

“Other countries are regulating workplace AI – so that staff and employers know where they stand. The UK can’t afford to drag its feet and become an international outlier.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said: “Harnessing the power of AI should not be at the expense of employment rights or protections – and that’s why the UK is leading the world on the safe and responsible adoption of AI, having held the first ever AI Summit at Bletchley Park last year.

“We’ve already taken steps to upskill workers for jobs both in and with AI through £290 million worth of investment since 2018 and are working with businesses and regulators on the safe and responsible adoption of AI in the workplace.

“Our response to the AI Regulation White Paper consultation backs our expert regulators to help us navigate the challenges of this technology, with a £10 million support package to deliver the skills, expertise, and institutions we need to ensure any legislation when introduced will be at its most effective.”