What are the risks of using systems such as ChatGPT in their current form to create HR documentation? Employment law specialist Joanne Gill describes her experiences with AI
With the recent burst of interest in the free-to-use OpenAI product ChatGPT, a plethora of websites and tools are promoting the use of artificial intelligence, in some cases to produce HR policies and documents. How do these chatbots produce policies and how feasible is it to use them in HR?
Are the documents lawful?
At the moment, automated services aren’t particularly useful when it comes to checking company HR policy against UK employment law. An automated service will write a policy based on the content you provide, but it won’t advise you on whether the content produced is unlawful and it can’t easily provide suggestions on other beneficial and/or best practice that could be included. It also doesn’t have the ability to review and prompt you when legal updates to your policies are required. It is currently a basic document creation tool as opposed to having the full intelligence required to ensure your documentation is written in the specific and legally compliant way that is needed to prevent costly and time-consuming tribunal claims.
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Missing the human touch
Putting legalities aside, the creation of documents through AI obviously excludes the human touch. We often advise clients on areas where we will say to them: “legally, you are able to do this”; however, we ask them to think about whether they actually “want” to do it because of the impact it could have on staff morale and ultimately the productivity and retention of their workforce.
In such cases the legality of the policy or action is not the point. There is a risk in asking AI to generate documents that underpin the culture of your organisation. The current technology seems to bypass factors such as the need to take into account human emotion and the need to build strong internal relationships.
Future changes to documents
What the bot is unable to do is advise employers on the implications of making any future changes to their documentation, or whether any changes you are implementing when creating the documents, are being handled in the appropriate way. For example, if you want to change the sickness absence reporting procedure, the bot won’t advise you to communicate this change to staff so that they are aware of it the next time they call in sick.
If you want to change a more fundamental term of someone’s employment such as their hours of work, location of work or certain benefits, then the bot may be able to draft the documentation for you, but it won’t highlight that consultation with staff is required, and what that consultation entails. Lack of consultation when changing terms and conditions can lead to costly tribunal claims. The fact that an automated system won’t even flag this up or advise you to seek advice on the matter, is a red flag in itself.
Omission of various topics
Contemporary automated systems rely on you to provide the information you want within your policies and documentation but they won’t advise you on additional beneficial areas to cover, particularly industry-specific policies, procedures and rules. An experienced HR consultant can identify and pinpoint other areas for inclusion that would otherwise be completely missed. HR documentation is more than just basic wording provided by a computer; it is a commercial necessity to help you shape and control the standards within your organisation and requires more than just auto-generated wording.
What an automated system providing basic wording won’t do is anticipate any loopholes or cracks within the wording that could work to the detriment of the organisation. For example, in many contracts of employment, annual leave clauses are specifically drafted so that the entitlement includes bank holidays, ensuring that if any extra ad hoc bank holidays are given one year, employees won’t be able to claim an extra day off with pay, over and above their current entitlement. Instead, if they want this day off, they will have to use it from their existing entitlement.
A slight change to this wording could mean that when there is an additional bank holiday, the employee is entitled to an additional day off with pay that specific year. This is only one example where subtle wording put together by experienced HR and employment law professionals future-proofs certain events so that it works in the organisation’s favour. The current automated systems do not appear to be sufficiently advanced to cover these eventualities.
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