The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill No 2 has been proceeding through Parliament. Returning to the Commons in November 2023, the Shadow Minister for Creative Industries and Digital re-tabled an amendment on the Digital Information Principles at Work, created in partnership with IFOW, that was first introduced at the fourth sitting, as outlined below. These principles were then re-tabled once again by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch for the Committee Stage in the Lords.
As part of that fourth sitting of the Public Bill Committee, Stephanie Peacock MP (Lab) outlined concerns that “the kinds of measures that would allow for good deployment of technology in the workplace—technology that operates in the greater interest including that of workers—are missing from the Government’s plans.”
IFOW has worked in partnership with the Shadow DCMS team to develop a set of ‘digital information principles at work' which respond to this gap and outline broad aims for new digital rights and freedoms in the workplace. These have been tabled as a proposed amendment to the Bill.
I beg to move amendment 121, in clause 11, page 19, line 36, at end insert—
“7. When exercising the power to make regulations under this Article, the Secretary of State must have regard to the following statement of principles:
Digital information principles at work
1. People should have access to a fair, inclusive and trustworthy digital environment at work.
2. Algorithmic systems should be designed and used to achieve better outcomes: to make work better, not worse, and not for surveillance. Workers and their representatives should be involved in this process.
3. People should be protected from unsafe, unaccountable and ineffective algorithmic systems at work. Impacts on individuals and groups must be assessed in advance and monitored, with reasonable and proportionate steps taken.
4. Algorithmic systems should not harm workers’ mental or physical health, or integrity.
5. Workers and their representatives should always know when an algorithmic system is being used, how and why it is being used, and what impacts it may have on them or their work.
6. Workers and their representatives should be involved in meaningful consultation before and during use of an algorithmic system that may significantly impact work or people.
7. Workers should have control over their own data and digital information collected about them at work.
8. Workers and their representatives should always have an opportunity for human contact, review and redress when an algorithmic system is used at work where it may significantly impact work or people. This includes a right to a written explanation when a decision is made.
9. Workers and their representatives should be able to use their data and digital technologies for contact and association to improve work quality and conditions.
10. Workers should be supported to build the information, literacy and skills needed to fulfil their capabilities through work transitions.”
This amendment would insert into new Article 22D of the UK GDPR a requirement for the Secretary of State to have regard to the statement of digital information principles at work when making regulations about automated decision-making.
Chi Onwurah MP (Lab) spoke in support, drawing on her past experience as Head of Technology for OfCom:
I rise to speak briefly in support of the amendment [...] and to emphasise the points that she made regarding the importance of putting forward a vision for the protection of workers as the nature of working environments change. That is part of what the amendment’s “digital information principles at work” seek to do.
My constituents often say that they feel that technology is something that is done to them, rather than something that has their consent and empowers them. [...] Surely the Minister must therefore agree that it is time to bring forward a suite of appropriate principles that follows the amendment's principle of “a fair, inclusive and trustworthy digital environment at work.”
I hope that he cannot disagree with any of that. If we are to get ourselves out of the economic stagnation and lack of growth of the last 10 or 13 years, we need to build on new technologies and productivity, but we cannot do that without the support and trust of people in the workforce. People must feel that their rights—new rights that reflect the new environment in the workplace—are safeguarded. I hope that the Minister will agree that the principles set out in the amendment are essential to building that trust, and to ensuring a working environment in which workers feel protected and able to benefit from advances in technology.
The Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Wittingdale, expressed support for the spirit of the principles:
We absolutely recognise that the kind of deployment of technology in the workplace shown in the examples that have already been given needs to be considered across a wide range of different regulatory frameworks in terms of not just data protection law, but human rights law, legal frameworks regarding health and safety and, of course, employment law.
Chi Onwurah MP noted in response that “he argues that there is a need for wider legislation to enshrine the rights he apparently agrees with” and challenged the Minister to state “when and where will that legislation come forward.”