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June 4, 2021

IFOW Newsletter April 2021 | The View from IFOW

Afternoon all,

April feels like ‘Good Work Charter' month. We’re pleased to have launched a project in partnership with the Carnegie Trust and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development to develop best practice guidance for businesses aiming to promote good work as they introduce technology at (what can seem like an) unsettling pace. The project will take a principles led approach aimed, modelled by IFOW’s Good Work Charter Creating good work is not just important for individual workers, as our Good Work Monitor shows. It’s related to more resilient economies and better health outcomes. Technology can make work better if its designed and used in a ‘human-centred’ way – but can undermine good work if it doesn’t. This project will help guide businesses towards this ‘human-centred’ approach to promote prosperity and wellbeing.  

This month has also seen the release of Jon Cruddas MP’s new book ‘The Dignity of Labour’. Jon has been an influential voice in progressive politics since his election in 2001, most notably in his position as Labour Party Policy Coordinator from 2012-2015 and as a member of the ‘Future of Work Commission’. We’re proud that Jon calls for a new Good Work Covenant which builds on the principles established in our Good Work Charter - take a look the final chapter on Human Labour and Radical Hope (page 175).

Meanwhile, we’ve been developing a Charter-based assessment tool for corporate members of the new APPG for the Future of Work. Co-Chair Lord Jim Knight has proposed members sign up to the Good Work Charter to encourage an aspirational, ‘high road’ approach in which good work is embedded through their businesses, above and beyond legal requirements.

Looking ahead to May, IFOW has a busy month with the release of our report ‘The Amazonian Era’.  Supported by Trust for London and featuring a new analysis of automation technologies, we explore the full extent of the ‘gigification’ of work through the pandemic organised around….the Good Work Charter!

Enjoy the long weekend,

Anna

Anna Thomas
Director
Institute for the Future of Work

Deep Dive: EU Regulation on AI
The rapid pace of tech innovation has tested our regulatory and governance mechanisms  - and we’ve been looking forward to the EU Draft Regulation on AI published last week. The publication marks the end of an anti-regulation deadlock and its aim to promote wellbeing and human flourishing is welcome. Work is confirmed as a ‘high risk’ area, and the revised draft covers platforms and gig as well as traditional work. So far so good.

But we think underlying flaws in the EU’s approach are revealed by examining how the regulation applies at work. The approach proposed rests on self-verification of a range of requirements from safety assessment to human oversight. There’s no requirement for pre-emptive scrutiny, impact assessment or adjustment when adverse impacts are identified, as we proposed Mind The Gap. Just as important, the Regs focus on AI harms that derive from inaccuracy or poor optimisation or data. This misses a critical point: that there’s no such thing as a neutral AI system. AI trained on data that capture existing inequalities in access to work and other resources will replicate those inequalities without human intervention. So can we really leave something this important to self-assessment and a somewhat generic recognition that there may be discriminatory impacts?

As the UK forges our own AI Strategy, we hope the Government will recognise first mover, innovation and longer-term advantages in proactively tackling thorny problems played out at work. And there’s still time for UK to provide a gold standard in AI Regulation to address the gaps in coverage and accountability we’ve identified.

Interesting Reads

IFOW blogs this month feature Abigail Marks, Professor of Future of Work at Newcastle University who reflects on how the pandemic can help us rethink the pace of work.

Andrew Pakes, Research Director at Prospect Union has written about the growing case for the Right to Disconnect.

The House of Lords COVID 19 Committee have also launched their report, 'Beyond Digital: Planning for a Hybrid World' featuring IFOW evidence. The report recommends a hybrid strategy for a hybrid world, with a marked focus on digital literacy and skills.

This month Abi Adams-Prassl, Jeremias Adams-Prassl and Diane Coyle have published a detailed paper on the recent UK Supreme Court judgement on Uber’s employment model and examined the policy implications from economic and legal perspectives.

Robin Allen QC and Dee Masters explore the recent High Court judgment in Mother Hood Plan held that the Government could justify a potentially discriminatory benefits systems based on automated decision-making system on account of its ease, speed and cost

Valero de Stephano discusses whether the EU proposed AI Reg could threaten labour protection here, drawing on his research on subordination and authority in the contemporary world of work.

LSE's Ganga Shreedhar, Kate Laffan and Laura M. Giurge have produced a report on 'How to Build a More Sustainable Future of Work'. LSE have also published a blog on remote working by Leslie Willcocks.

Videos from the 'Machine Learning and Economic Inequality' conference, hosted earlier this month are now available online.

Upcoming Events

The Institute for the Future of Work will be a knowledge partner for the Tortoise Future of Work Summit on 27 May
Be our special guest at the Tortoise Future of Work Summit on Thursday 27 May.

We're delighted to be connected with Tortoise for their Future of Work Summit on Thursday 27 May where we'll be asking whether reshaping the way we work can transform the way we live.

Speakers include:
-IFOW Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Naomi Climer
- Elizabeth Uviebinené, author of The Reset: Ideas to Change How We Work and Live
- Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary
- Julia Hobsbawm, Author of the new report 'The Nowhere Office' and Chair of the Demos WorkShift Commission
- Sheree Atcheson, Global Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Peakon
- Leena Nair, Chief Human Resource Officer, Unilever
- Bart van Ark, Managing Director, The Productivity Institute
- Andy Start, CEO Government Services, Capita

You can get your free ticket through this link (usually cost £90) when you use the access code IFOWGUEST.

The Institute for the Future of Work will be curating the ‘Future of Work’ stage at the 2021 CogX Festival. The ‘Future of Work’ stage will be taking place on the 14th June and will focus on the question: how do we get the next 10 years right? More information about CogX Festival here.

The APPG for the Future of Work will be hosting it’s first evidence sessions in its inquiry into ‘AI and Surveillance in the Workplace’ from 1-2.30pm on the 18th May. For more information email hana@ifow.org

IFOW’s Anna Thomas will be contributing to the Centre for Progressive Policy event on the post-pandemic labour market: How do we create more and better jobs? This will be at 5pm on the 4th May. Joining Anna on this panel will be Prof. Diane Coyle, University of Cambridge, Martin Vander Weyer, Business Editor of the Spectator and Ben Franklin, Head of Research, Centre for Progressive Policy. More information and registration here.

IFOW’s Helen Mountfield QC will be speaking about Machines Judging Humans at the Institute of AI Ethics on 6 May at 5-6 pm. Book your place here

The Ada Lovelace Institute are hosting a Book launch: Digital Technology and Democratic Theory. Prof. Archon Fung of Harvard Kennedy School, Prof. Bryan Ford of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Prof. Hélène Landemore of Yale University, Dr Lucy Bernholz Director of the Digital Civil Society Lab and Prof. Seeta Peña Gangadharan of LSE. More information and registration here.

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Author

Anna Thomas

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