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The rise of AI in the workplace – what do employers need to know?

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For some, the rapid development of AI is exciting, heralding a new era for technology. They see it as the answer to just about everything. Others are more sceptical, raising questions about how AI will impact the world of work or warning of the downfall of humanity,

No matter where you stand, few can argue that AI is set to bring some of the biggest changes to the modern workplace since the Industrial Revolution. And this means there’s plenty for employers to consider.

Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, says “Like it or not, AI is here to stay. Its uses now reaches far beyond what many businesses may typically think of, for example, chat bots or data analysis.

“Many employers already recognise the positive role that AI can play in boosting productivity and output. But there is also significant risk when employees start to rely on AI to do their job without the knowledge or permission of their employer.

“This behaviour may violate the terms of their employment contract, whether knowingly or unknowingly. If employees use AI tools to do their work for them, they’re effectively being paid for work they’re not doing. So it’s worth checking contracts to see what they say about employee duties and delegating tasks.

“It’s possible the whole situation could be chalked up to a misunderstanding and the employee was not aware they couldn’t use AI in their role. After all, a lot of the technology is new to all of us.

“I’d recommend all businesses update policies or introduce new, specific AI policies, to prevent any confusion and set out clearly the rules around the use of AI in your workplace. This is best practice whenever there are significant developments that can impact the workplace, especially where risks and concerns are identified.

“As more and more businesses (and their staff) are taking advantage of AI to boost productivity and reduce ‘human error mistakes’, many may not immediately recognise the potential risks attached.

“For example, issues can arise around privacy with data protection laws to think about. If an employee enters any sensitive company data into an AI platform, it could leave it vulnerable to cyber and phishing attacks.

“There’s also the risk of copyright infringements. When using AI, you don’t really know where the information has come from and who owns the rights. It’s possible that there could be plagiarism involved or – worst case – information that is misleading, out of date or just made up.

“So, for now don’t worry about the machines taking over. AI is very much a work in progress, rather than a perfect all-singing, all-dancing tool to replace human workers.  If you do use AI in the workplace then ensure it is used alongside humans rather than in place of them.

“If your business gives any kind of legal advice then under no circumstances should you rely on AI. While it is fantastic for helping speed up processes, relying solely on any AI tool to generate content will open you up to legal risk as there’s no guarantee that the information is accurate. There always needs to be someone to fact-check and edit everything that goes out, whether generated by AI or a human.”

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