The workplace has changed substantially in the last decade.

We have seen a shift towards embracing flexible working arrangements, an increase in the number of individuals working remotely, more emphasis on policies to allow fathers to take a more active role in the first year of their child’s life and the rise of the gig economy.

So what’s next? Is Artificial intelligence (AI) the next step in the evolution of our workplaces?

Some people certainly seem to think so, but what does it mean from an Employment Law perspective?

Recruitment

When employers and HR managers are hiring for job vacancies, unconscious bias can creep in and affect the decision making process. Unfortunately, bias is prevalent and can be hard to tackle. It can also mean you miss out on some fantastic talent, lead to a less diverse workforce and most dangerously of all put you at risk of unlawful discrimination claims.

The use of AI could therefore act a good solution to reducing bias in the recruitment process.  

Dismissal

One of the biggest concerns of AI remains that it can lead to job losses.

If you are closing the place of business where the employee was employed to work or there is a reduced requirement for employees to carry out work of a particular kind, you will be a genuine redundancy situation.

When you are dismissing someone on the basis of redundancy, there is a long list of things you need to comply with in order to avoid falling foul of the law, such as warning employees of redundancies, creating and applying a fair and non-discriminatory scoring criteria, consulting with employees and thinking through suitable alternative employment options. In large scale redundancies, you will also need to adhere to collective redundancy obligations.

Where a business restructure does not give rise to actual redundancies, you may be able to dismiss the employee for ‘some other substantial reason’. In this case, it is still important that you have acted reasonably in the circumstances.

When thinking about dismissing an employee, you should contact your Employment Law Adviser who can guide you through the correct procedure and minimise the risks of facing unfair dismissal claims.

Changing work duties

The use of AI may mean that your employees’ duties have to change, but employers can’t just change an employee’s terms and conditions of employment unilaterally.

In most cases, employers will need to consult with the employee or, if applicable, their trade union or other employee representatives before they go ahead and make a change to the employee’s Contract of Employment. A failure to do this means it will be considered a breach of contract.

If you are implementing a change for multiple employees, you will need agreement from each employee. This means you may find yourself with some employees who do accept the change and other who don’t. Again, you should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to avoid getting into trouble.

AI may be an exciting prospect, especially for those employers looking to enhance productivity and save money, but as we can see, great care should always be taken when managing employees.

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Call us on 0345 226 8393.

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