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The not-for-profit sector's role in AI transformation

Victoria Speed colour hi res
Victoria Speed colour hi res

Author: Victoria Speed, Director of the Employment Legal Advice Network (ELAN)

ELAN is a network of 60+ organisations working to help people in precarious, low-paid jobs understand more about their employment rights - and how to enforce them. We run various programmes designed to help achieve this and the ‘new kid on this block’ is a working group on AI and tech in the workplace.

There aren't many employment advisers in the not-for-profit sector - the cuts to legal aid being the main cause of their disappearance. There's huge demand for those that remain from workers not paid their wages, workers dismissed without notice, workers treated terribly because they are pregnant, because of their race, because of their religion and more. Now we can add to this list an increasing demand for advice from those treated unfairly due to an algorithm, artificial intelligence, machine learning or automated decision making.

In 2016, Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, stated that the world was entering the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” referring to the developments of technology. Now, in 2023, we are not just entering but well into seeing the effects of this new technology.

This is a whole new area for many frontline advisers. It won't be for long.

Victoria Speed, ELAN

Our working group seeks to ensure that these new challenges are managed well.  What questions should we ask to understand how technology has played a role in a workplace decision impacting our client? How can we use the existing legal framework to help that individual? How can we add our voice to those working to ensure that technology is developed for the benefit of all, including those least supported workers who even now find themselves exploited and treated unfairly?

On the more hopeful side, what opportunities are there for the sector to use technology to improve awareness of employment rights and to improve prospects of access to justice? On testing, ChatGPT provided reasonable, if not perfect, answers to some common labour law queries, including time limits rules. With future funding of the sector likely to remain fragile, do we have a duty to those that need information and advice to use technology to provide services to scale? How do we do this responsibly and ethically?

AI is fast becoming an invaluable tool for preparation of documents at both the advisory and litigation stage, an area that can cause sleepless nights for advisers in the not-for-profit sector. How can the sector, with so little funding, avoid being excluded from these developments and  opportunities to improve their client’s experience of justice?

This is a whole new area for many frontline advisers. It won’t be for long. ELAN seeks to provide opportunity for learning in this space through the working group and through specific knowledge sharing sessions with experts in this field. We welcome anyone interested in supporting this work to contact Victoria Speed, Consultant Director of ELAN, at Victoria@trustforlondon.org.uk.

If you need advice or help with a problem at work, take a look at the member organisations of ELAN, eligibility and how to access them. All of these organisations provide employment advice to people in London.