The benefits that artificial intelligence (AI) and services like ChatGPT can offer to the modern workplace are undeniable. They have demonstrated their ability to create efficiencies in business activities that are repetitive and process-intensive.

However, employers may feel nervous about the implications of introducing automated systems, particularly with tech industry leaders calling for a pause on AI development and trade unions voicing their misgivings about the impact on employee rights.

A recent survey of 1000 people by Prospect (the tech trade union) revealed some interesting conclusions, which are analysed in this article.

Will AI undermine jobs?  

The survey found that 58% of workers think that the government should regulate the use of generative AI in workplaces to protect jobs. The government has made it clear that it wants to encourage the commercial benefits and efficiencies of AI, as demonstrated by the recent White Paper on the use of AI in the UK.

The White Paper envisages a regulatory framework which is based on input, and guidance from existing regulators (such as the Health and Safety Executive and the Equality and Human Rights Commission) is envisaged, rather than a legislative crackdown on the use of AI in the workplace. As such, employers should keep an eye out for sector-specific regulatory guidance on AI use.

In the short term, AI is likely to provide useful automation for tasks which can be standardised, but subject to the ongoing need for tight control and employee oversight as the tech continues to develop. For example, in a law firm, AI may support transactional work such as corporate due diligence, the initial stages of contractual drafting, or legal research.  

However, the more that AI becomes embedded in the day-to-day functioning of a business, the more likely it is that some sections of the workforce may feel unsettled about the future job market and their existing roles.  

An AI policy – clear and express employee communication

One way to address employee concerns is through clear communication about the appropriate use of AI at work and the ongoing importance of keen oversight, personal performance, and good judgement.  

The Prospect survey concluded that 45% of workers believe that they would not be involved in decisions about introducing new tech in the workplace. That does not need to be the case. Employers can choose to engage employees in active discussion about the business benefits of AI, and trials of new tech systems to work out how best to weave it into current business practices.

Amending current IT policies to refer to the use of AI tech, or publishing a standalone AI policy, will allow employers to provide clear guidelines and ensure employees fully understand the benefits and potential pitfalls (including potential disciplinary action) that would result from inappropriate use.  

Maintaining confidentiality

An area of concern for many employers is the risk that confidential business information is inadvertently revealed through use of AI. Employees may be keen to use easy access platforms such as ChatGPT, which do not offer the same level of security as a tailored AI package with limited access. 

Strict guidelines are advisable, to ensure that employees do not upload or share any data or documents which reveal sensitive and/or confidential information about the employer, staff, or clients. Employees should be reminded of their own contractual obligations and those which arise under data protection legislation such as the GDPR. 

A risk assessment which analyses the proposed use of AI is another good way to identify and address potential problems at an early stage. New tech should also be accompanied by employee training to ensure a consistent approach.

Once AI is incorporated into day-to-day working, an employee control and monitoring process is a further option for reducing the chance of things going awry.

Automation of HR processes

Internal HR processes are also an obvious business area where AI can offer support. The use of AI in relation to recruitment is on the increase, but other examples might include the redundancy selection process and performance management. ChatGPT itself suggests that it could assist with setting employee targets, tracking performance, and producing feedback evaluations.

However, ChatGPT also identifies that the key risks of doing so include inaccuracy of responses and the fact that training data which may be used to create the AI response could contain biases. It would certainly be a brave employer that was willing to performance manage its staff based on AI-generated data, without further input from suitably skilled employees.

When it comes to key decisions, such as selecting the best candidate for a particular role, employers should keep in mind the possibility of data bias and information filtering for specific language choices, behaviour patterns and personal characteristics. As well as the chance of missing out on exceptional candidates, legal challenges are a possibility if decisions could be deemed discriminatory on the grounds of a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 (such as age, sex, race, or disability).

The fact that AI might have assisted an employer in reaching a decision relating to employees would not undermine the employees’ legal protections.

For example, an unfair dismissal claim brought in relation to a redundancy decision would still require the employer to show a genuine and fair reason for dismissal and that a fair process had been followed, even if AI helped with the initial redundancy scoring and selection process.


To harness the benefits of AI, employers are advised to stay on top of tech developments that may propel their business forward and ensure they remain competitive. By investing time now to fully understand the implications of employee AI use, it will be much easier to address concerns and minimise the legal, ethical, and employee relations risks.

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