Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is increasingly being implemented across all sectors, with manufacturing and engineering being no exception.

According to a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2020, 93% of companies believe that AI will be a pivotal technology to drive growth and innovation in the sector, and the market size of AI is expected to exceed $ 2 billion by 2025.

Companies are now able to use machine learning and autonomous robots to improve safety, lower operational costs, improve efficiency and quality control and create 24/7 production lines.

However, employers within the manufacturing sector should be aware of the risks surrounding the adoption of AI in the workplace and laws that aim to protect employees.

Contact Our Manufacturing Solicitors

What is AI?

In the manufacturing and engineering sector, the most common forms of AI being used are:

  • Collaborative Robots (Cobots): Used to augment the work done by humans that typically requires heavy lifting or on factory assembly lines.
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA): software that can automate high-volume repetitious tasks.
  • Lights-out Factories: operates as an entirely automated workforce and is run with minimal human interaction.
  • Predictive Maintenance (PdM): anticipates servicing needs.

More generally, AI can be used in the workplace for:

  • Employee recruitment and onboarding.
  • Performance management.
  • Managing remote workers.
  • Automation of health and safety.

Get In Touch With Myerson Solicitors

Current legislation governing AI in the workplace 

Currently, there are no explicit laws governing the use of AI in the workplace.

Whilst a Private Member’s Bill named the "Artificial Intelligence (Regulation and Workers' Rights) Bill" was introduced to regulate the use of AI in the workplace and to make provision for workers’ rights, the Bill did not have support from the Government who stated that AI use in the workplace could be regulated through existing legislation, whilst following five core principles:

  • Safety security and robustness;
  • Appropriate transparency;
  • Fairness;
  • Accountability and governance; and
  • Contestability and redress.


Speak With Our Manufacturing Lawyers

Areas of law that could be impacted by AI

In its Employment Law Briefing, the Government identified several areas of law in place which could be impacted by the use of AI tools:

Trust and Confidence

There is an implied duty of mutual trust and confidence between employees and their employers, and employers are obligated to explain their decisions and justify that they were made in good faith. This could be difficult when an employer has heavily relied on an AI system to make that decision.

Equality Act 2010 

The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of protected characteristics, including sex, religion and race, for example. When programming AI, employers will need to ensure that such tools do not exhibit bias to avoid discrimination claims.

Data Protection

The UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 place various restrictions on data collection and processing. For example, Article 22(1) of UK GDPR sets out that:

data subjects shall have the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which produces legal effects concerning him or her or similarly significantly affects him or her”.

The Information Commissioners Office has published its own guidance, which contains advice on how to interpret data protection law as it applies to AI systems and general best practices for data protection-compliant AI.

Employment Rights Act 1996 

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, any employee with over two years of continuous service has the right not to be unfairly dismissed, including in unfair redundancy processes where the role may have been subsumed by AI.

Contact Our Manufacturing Experts

Avoiding risk with AI

To avoid possible claims being brought as a result of the adoption of AI tools, employers should consider the following:

  • Being transparent about the use of AI tools to both employees and candidates
  • Implementing training and policies for employees on the use of AI
  • Ensuring that a human makes the ultimate decision concerning an employee dismissal
  • Providing full disclosure to employees and candidates about profiling, automated decision-making and data monitoring
  • Undertaking a Data Protection Impact Assessment to assess the necessity and proportionality of any data processing that adopts AI

It is essential for employers across the manufacturing and engineering sectors to ensure that they are aware of any key legislative updates concerning the implementation of AI in the workplace and that they are taking appropriate steps to eliminate risk.

Speak With Our Manufacturing Solicitors

Contact Our Manufacturing Lawyers

If you have any queries regarding AI and Manufacturing, contact Myerson Solicitors' Manufacturing team on: