In our 2018 Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Workplace article series we considered the potential positive impacts that AI could have on the workplace and the possible amendments required to Irish employment law to allow these to happen. We identified the major issues facing employers and employees in Ireland in 2018 and 2019 and considered ways that AI can be used to solve some of these issues. These issues included the promotion of gender equality, diversity in the workplace, accessibility to the workplace and active-aging.
On 10 April 2018, Ireland, along with 24 other EU Member States, signed the EU Declaration of Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence. This was an important step for Ireland and the EU, but it is important that Ireland follows up on this Declaration with a national strategy too. In our 2018 series we joined other commentators calling for an Irish national AI strategy which would deal with AI and its impact on society and which would also study the impact of AI on the labour market and suggest changes to legislation where necessary.
Equality and Diversity in the Workplace
One theme that emerged above others from our study of AI in the Workplace is that of equality in the workplace and the idea that AI can be positively used to help improve equality and diversity in Irish workplaces.
In our second article in the series we discussed how AI can be used to improve equality and diversity in the recruitment process. AI platforms such as Textio, Headstart and Paññã are being used by employers to help them meet their recruitment equality obligations. These platforms also provide fairness to candidates in the recruitment process. However, we also discussed the importance of testing and proper programming of AI in the recruitment process to avoid a latent bias in platforms which could compound issues for employers and employees rather then help.
We tackled the issue of gender inequality in the workplace in our third article in the series. We discussed the potential use of AI to help improve the quality of upcoming Irish gender pay gap reporting, both with data collection and data reporting. Again, following on from our recruitment article, we explored how AI platforms, such as Textio, can be used by employers to create fairer matrices and comparisons between all employees. We also discussed the innovative ways that employers are beginning to use AI to help create more flexible workplaces and so maintain engagement from employees with family commitments.
We further explored the use of AI in creating more flexible workplaces and maintaining engagement in our articles focusing on disability and accessibility in the workplace and inter-generational working. In response to an employer's reasonable accommodation requirements under section 16(3) of the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015, we discussed how AI platforms such as Microsoft's 'Seeing AI' app and 'Intelligaze' and devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, can help employers meet these obligations and can help employees with disabilities continue working and maintain engagement.
In our last article in the series we focused on how AI can help different generations work together by employers implementing flexible working and collaborative workspaces using platforms such as Microsoft Yammer and Google Hangout.
Irish workplaces have changed rapidly in recent decades. With people working longer and the use of technology, the 'traditional' Irish workplace no longer exists. However, 'traditional' problems still exist in Irish workplaces and many of these came to the fore in 2018 such as gender inequality in the workplace.
In our AI in the Workplace series we explored and discussed the positive ways in which AI can be used to help solve some of these problems. We are also aware that the progressing use of AI in the workplace is a concern for many employees and employers alike. Employees are worried about replacement of jobs with technology and employers are concerned about rising costs of the implementation of technology. The adoption of AI and associated technologies will carry financial and social costs in the early years but studies such as "The economic impact of artificial intelligence on Ireland's economy" by PwC published in November 2017 indicate that over time AI will have a neutral, if not positive impact, on jobs in Ireland.
As discussed above, it is important that the Irish legislature studies AI and its impacts on Irish society generally and specifically in the workplace and that it acts now to prepare the way for employers and employees to harness the full potential of AI in the coming years.