TUC report highlights rise in AI-related surveillance at work

A significant proportion of workers report that AI-related surveillance has increased during the pandemic in part due to the rise in remote working as the TUC launches a new taskforce to highlight the dangers.


Fifteen per cent of workers say that monitoring and surveillance at work has increased since Covid-19, according to a new survey by the TUC.

The survey comes as the TUC launches a new taskforce to look at the “creeping role” of artificial intelligence (AI) in managing people at work.

The survey report, Technology managing people: the worker experience also shows 60% say that unless carefully regulated, using technology to make decisions about people at work could increase unfair treatment in the workplace. Nearly a third say they are consulted when any new forms of technology are introduced and more than half of workers say introducing new technologies to monitor the workplace damages trust between workers and employers.

The report says new forms of worker tech have accelerated during the pandemic – including AI.

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 says that AI-powered technologies are currently being used to analyse facial expressions, tone of voice and accents to assess candidates’ suitability for roles. The report also highlights how AI is being used by employers to analyse team dynamics and personality types when making restructuring decisions.

Left unchecked, the TUC warns that AI could lead to greater work intensification, isolation and questions around fairness. The study shows, for instance, that a third of those employed on insecure contracts feel that they have their activities at work monitored at all times.

The taskforce will bring together experts from trade unions and the legal world to develop new proposals for protecting workers from “punitive” forms of performance management by AI and other types of new technology. This will include greater worker consultation on developments and giving workers more information on the use of technology in the workplace.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Workers must be properly consulted on the use of AI, and be protected from punitive ways of working. Nobody should have their livelihood taken away by an algorithm.

“As we emerge from this crisis, tech must be used to make working lives better – not to rob people of their dignity.”

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