The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Is the Use of AI in the Workplace Ethical?

AI represented as robot in suit touching data graph
29 April 2021 | Updated 29 June 2021
 

A report by the Trades Union Congress says new protections are “urgently needed” to regulate the use of AI in workplaces.

AI can be utilised by employers in remote recruitment, monitoring and work allocation. By using things such as natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence can handle repetitive and lengthy administrative tasks, freeing up the workforce to concentrate on more creative or impactful endeavours.

However, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) wants employees to have the legal right to challenge decisions made by AI algorithms. They feel that there are “significant gaps in the legal protection” of employees when it comes to unfair or discriminatory decisions made by algorithms, and these laws should be better known and more effective. 

 

Watch the Video Now

 


 

The TUC feels that “profiling”, is one of the most problematic forms of workplace AI. This is defined as “a form of automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular, to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability behaviour, location or movements.”

AI profiling is used in many ways, for example, marketing, design and producing goods and services, and also in the management of workers and employees.

According to the TUC’s report, some commentators argue that through profiling, “a machine” can make nuanced judgements about people, such as predicting the risk they will turn up late for work or move to a competitor, by analysing known and inferred personal data about that person. 

However this process can be susceptible to discrimination, the TUC argues.

 

"Workers have a right to understand the decisions that affect their livelihood. But do they have the right to a human face presenting those decisions or reviewing them when challenged? This is perhaps the most emotional battleground as AI plays an ever-growing role in our workplace.”

–Tom Cheesewright

Britain’s Leading Futurist

 

Trusting AI

 

The Chartered Institute for IT has responded by saying that society must be able to trust AI, if we are to use it to help us have a better work experience.

The President of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, John Higgins said: “Society must be able to trust AI if we are to use it to the full to help us live better lives and have a better work experience.

‘“This powerful report encourages us to sort out the design and development governance for AI, and to ensure that there are proper legal protections in place.

“Algorithms must be ethical by design and that needs collective technological governance and professionalism."

Tom Cheesewright, Britain’s leading futurist and author of Future-Proof Your Business, argues that there is often too little transparency in the data used to drive decisions about our working lives:

“When the computer says 'no', we want to know why. Workers have a right to understand the decisions that affect their livelihood. But do they have the right to a human face presenting those decisions or reviewing them when challenged? This is perhaps the most emotional battleground as AI plays an ever-growing role in our workplace.”

 

TOM CHEESEWRIGHT

Picture: a photograph of Tom Cheesewright

 

The Protection of an Individual's Rights

 

Mike Gillespie, Director at Advent IM, an independent information security consultancy, told us that GDPR is not enough to cover the scope of concern about AI in recruitment and employee management.

“AI, in so many ways, has yet to come of age but we need to be scrutinising and planning for this now. All humans are biased and biased inputs create flawed results. Look at what happened with Microsoft’s Tay and the secret Amazon AI recruitment tool. 

Gillespie refers here to two widely known incidents of where AI can go badly wrong. Tay was Microsoft’s AI chat bot, which caused controversy when it began to post offensive tweets, and was shut down 16 hours after its launch. Amazon’s AI recruitment tool was discovered to favour male candidates, when its algorithm taught itself to penalise CVs that included the word “women’s”.

Gillespie agrees that AI technology may cause issues in the protection of individual rights:

“COVID has created a much larger remote workforce and the use of AI in some ‘productivity tools’ also creates a dilemma and the potential for individual rights and freedoms to be eroded by technology, not least the ‘hire and fire by AI’ scenario.

“We can only hope that most responsible employers will already consider protecting employees’ rights to be paramount.

 

Mike gillespie

Picture: a photograph of Mike Gillespie

 

Is AI Suitable for People Matters?

 

Nikki Dallas, Director at recruitment company Talent FM, says that it’s a slippery slope for any organisation to rely solely on AI when it comes to people matters.:

“Yes AI has a place in helping sift and sort, e.g. in the case of job applications, but to rely on it entirely I believe would be to that organisation’s detriment for sure!

 

nikki dallas

Picture: a photograph of Nikki Dallas

 

“In my view companies need to stop behaving like there is a surplus of talent and stop using methodologies that are designed to deal with applications en masse and instead create proactive people and recruitment strategies that recognise people’s differences, complexities and uniqueness and lead them to the talent that they need. 

“You cannot put candidates in a box and I believe that if a company tries to do so they will be missing out in the race for talent on a massive scale.   The best people want to work for companies that respect them and that starts with taking the time needed to get to know them”

Picture: AI represented as robot in suit touching data graph

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 29 April 2021

Share



Related Articles

What Do The Bosses Know? What Do They Need To Know?

What data does your boss collect about you? Half of us don’t know –  and don't know what it is used for – according to new research from...

 Read Full Article
Adult Retraining Scheme Rolled Out Further

Education Minister Kemi Badenoch has announced the further rollout of the Get Help to Retrain digital service to the West Midlands and North East following a successful...

 Read Full Article
Disability Pride Month – The Business Case for Equality

July marks Disability Pride Month, an international event that shines a light on physical, learning, hidden disabilities and mental health conditions, enabling open...

 Read Full Article
Queering Public Space – Inclusive Design for the Built Environment

Following Pride Month, how can FMs and property managers create more inclusive spaces within the built environment? A 2019 survey showed that 50 per cent of the...

 Read Full Article
Office Uses Smiling Face Recognition at Entrance

Canon Information Technology's Beijing office uses a workspace management system that only allows smiling employees to enter the premises and book...

 Read Full Article
FM Internship for Young People With Disabilities Launches

Unify by Bruntwood has partnered with Pure Innovations to offer young people with disabilities a route into working in the FM industry.  Unify will...

 Read Full Article
International Women in Engineering Day – Engineering Heroes

International Women in Engineering Day is an awareness campaign that raises the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities...

 Read Full Article
Accessibility and Our Cities – Why is This Relevant to Inclusion?

How is the erosion of the traditional high street impacting access and inclusion in our cities? Whilst much is being written about how socially distanced,...

 Read Full Article
Morgan Stanley Launches Tool Kit to Support Diversity in Investment

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has launched a Racial Equity Investing Tool Kit as part of its Investing with Impact Platform. Investors will now have access to a...

 Read Full Article
The UK’s Most LGBTQ+ Inclusive Employers – What Practical Steps Do They Take?

This Pride Month, we are looking at what practical tips businesses can learn from the best-performing organisations from the UK Workplace Equality...

 Read Full Article