CLW Speaker Series: 'Human Rights Dimensions of The Digital Revolution at Work'

17 November 2021, 2.00 PM - 17 November 2021, 3.00 PM

Wills Memorial Building, rm 1.11 (Old Council Chamber)

On Wednesday 17th November 2021 the Centre for Law at Work will welcome Joe Atkinson, Lecturer, School of Law, University of Sheffield & Philippa Collins, Lecturer, School of Law, University of Bristol to present a talk entitled 'Human Rights Dimensions of The Digital Revolution at Work' as part of the University of Bristol Centre for Law at Work Speaker Series.


This paper argues that the use of AI, automated management, and surveillance technologies by employers threaten human rights in the workplace. It highlights the value of examining issues relating to the use of new technologies in the workplace through a broad human rights lens, and the need for states to strike a fair balance between the rights of workers, the interests of employers and the wider societal interest when regulating. Having examined the key human rights principles that must be taken into account in shaping the integration of technology in the workplace, the paper concludes by questioning whether some specific examples of workplace technology should be heavily restricted or prohibited altogether.

The paper begins by providing some context on both the relationship between labour law and human rights, and the increasing use of AI and algorithmic management tools by employers. Section III uses examples of current and developing technologies to demonstrate how these threaten a wide range of workers’ human rights, including freedom of association, expression, thought and belief, and due process rights. Section IV explores the value of adopting a human rights perspective when considering and responding to the challenges arising from the use of AI technologies within the workplace. One key component of human rights discourse (in contrast to e.g. “ethical AI” debates) is the responsibility being placed on the state rather than upon employers/tech companies to assess the acceptability and boundaries of uses of tech. It also considers other human rights principles that may help navigate questions surrounding the use of new technologies in the workplace are also considered. Section V concludes by raising the possibility that some uses of technology should be restricted to narrow circumstances or prohibited altogether as ‘automatically unfair’ uses of technology at work.

Further Information

For further information please do not hesitate to contact the centre Directors Manoj Dias Abey or Katie Cruz. Alternatively you can contact the Centre Executive Assistant Paige Spicer.

Joe Atkinson

Philippa Collins

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