Last reviewed 7 December 2020

The TUC has launched a new taskforce to look at what it describes as the creeping role of artificial intelligence (AI) in managing people at work.

The launch coincides with a new TUC report, Technology managing people: the worker experience, which reveals that many workers have concerns over the use of AI and other supervision technology in the workplace.

The report, which can be found at www.tuc.org.uk, highlights research showing that 15% of people believe that monitoring and surveillance at work has increased since the start of the pandemic.

While just 31% say they are consulted when any new forms of technology are introduced, 60% argue that, unless carefully regulated, using technology to make decisions about people could increase unfair treatment in the workplace.

Furthermore, more than half of workers (56%) say introducing new technologies to monitor the workplace damages trust between workers and employers

The AI recruitment market is now forecast to be worth nearly $400 million by 2027 with AI increasingly being used as a tool to manage people. This includes selecting candidates for interview, day-to-day line management, performance ratings, shift allocation and deciding who is disciplined or made redundant.

The TUC report highlights how AI is being utilised by employers to analyse team dynamics and personality types when making restructuring decisions.

Early next year, the new taskforce will publish a legal report on how the needs of workers and trade unions should be recognised in the use of AI at work.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Worker surveillance tech has taken off during this pandemic as employers have grappled with increased remote working. Big companies are investing in intrusive AI to keep tabs on their workers, set more demanding targets — and to automate decisions about who to let go. And it’s leading to increased loneliness and monotony”.

Tech must be used to make working lives better, she concluded, not to rob people of their dignity.

Comment by Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR

While some employers may feel that increased employee monitoring, especially if they are working from home, is a good idea, they should proceed carefully.

For one thing, employees must be told what monitoring is going to take place beforehand; if you’re going to monitor their emails, they need to be pre-warned.

While such monitoring can help employers identify the hardest workers in their company, there are other ways to establish this, and monitoring staff can also lead to feelings of being unappreciated, distrusted and, potentially, deprive a company of valuable staff.