Artificial Intelligence or AI is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perceptions, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages “.
The term is defined in popular culture, and in the eyes of employees the world over, as an ever-approaching threat. The World Economic Forum has discussed AI as a major element of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and something which will rapidly change our world and workplaces. Regardless of the definition, AI is coming into our workplaces and coming quickly.
As with any change to workplaces, employment law will follow. Employment lawyers and the Irish legislature need to consider how current employment law in Ireland may need to adapt to harness the full potential of AI for Irish businesses and, also, to protect employees. William Fry will investigate these issues in a series of articles in 2018, exploring how modern Irish workforces will be changed by AI and will analyse the employment law issues connected with these changes. This introductory article to the series focuses on the potential positives of AI in helping to solve some of Ireland’s current employment law issues.
AI has already changed the recruitment process making it more effective. Such change will most likely increase rapidly. As this continues to develop, and perhaps reach the stage where the first stages in a recruitment process have little human interaction, it will be crucially important to ensure that Irish employment equality legislation is still respected. This includes programming the technology early on to respect the nine equality grounds and fixing any latent bias in technology. Of course, AI might also help employers to be more diverse in their recruitment process allowing candidates who fit criteria but who failed to reach interview stage because of a previous latent bias to overcome those hurdles.
The gender pay gap and gender equality more generally, can stand to improve from the rise of robots too. This can come from recruitment as discussed above to bonuses, benefits and even pay being tracked by technology to actual output by employees. This has the potential to defeat any latent bias in an organisation and can stand to also defeat the sort of issues identified as a result of the first deadline of UK gender pay gap reporting. We identified in a recent article that the Irish legislature and Irish employers need to learn from the lessons of the UK before final gender pay gap reporting legislation is adopted in Ireland. Making use of technology to accurately track pay in companies and then accurately report would provide better and more real data and help companies identify problems in their companies and seek to fix those problems more effectively.
The use of technology in harmony with human work can open new doors to helping employees with disabilities remain in or return to the workforce more easily than before. This would also help employers to honour their legislative responsibilities more easily than before and perhaps assist with reasonably accommodating more cost-effectively. Existing legislation could be reviewed to allow for greater connection between employees and technology including perhaps the need for employers to offer education as part of accommodation following serious illness or accident. […]