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9 February 20243 minute read

Artificial intelligence and the future of work

The German government provides information on its plans for AI and employee protection

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In response to a comment made by the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, the German government addressed the impact of the use of AI on employees and the labour market. Within the framework of ‘Artificial intelligence and the future of work’1, the government addressed several questions, including on the Artificial Intelligence Act (AI ACT) and other planned measures which aim to positively shape the impact of AI on the labour market.


The federal government's AI strategy

The federal government adopted an AI strategy back 2018, which was revised in 2020. In regard to the labour market, the emphasis was placed on reinforcing employee participation in companies and establishing a mandatory legal framework for the application of AI in the workplace.


Co-determination in the workplace

The German government does not foresee any need for adjustments to co-determination practices in companies due to the integration of AI. It highlights that the German Works Council Modernisation Act (Betriebsrätemodernisierungsgesetz), which came into force in 2021, has already responded sufficiently to the use of AI in companies. For example, the Works Council Modernisation Act has streamlined the engagement of AI experts (Section 80 para. 3 of the Works Constitution Act (BetrVG)). Further, it ensures the works council's information and consultation rights concerning AI's utilisation in personnel selection and work process planning. Consequently, the works council is entitled to be informed during the planning of AI-related work procedures and processes (Section 90 para 1 no. 3 BetrVG). Additionally, the works council must be actively involved in formulating guidelines for personnel selection when AI is exclusively or collaboratively involved in the process (Section 95 para 2a BetrVG).


AI Act

The German government also refers to the EU AI Act, which, although is not yet in force, outlines regulation on the use of AI by categorising it into risk classes. Low-risk programmes face minimimal regulation, while special, stringent rules apply to high-risk ones. Notably, AI systems designed for employment and personnel management fall into the high-risk category. The federal government endorses this risk-based approach. Since the AI Act does not fall under labour law, the German government advocates for an inclusion in the AI Act clarifying the possibility of national regulations to safeguard employees when utilising AI systems.

EU member states, including Germany, have jointly agreed on a draft for the AI Act. The draft specifies that the AI Act will not impact national labour laws concerning employee protection, working conditions, and workplace health and safety. It is anticipated that the AI Act will come into force before the European elections, however it still needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers and the Parliament.


Practical note

In 2023, 12% of companies in Germany reported that they were already using AI technologies.2 Given this context, the regulation of the use of AI in the labour market is to be welcomed. The German government has emphasised its support for an opening clause in negotiations on the AI Act, allowing for national regulations concerning employee protection in relation to AI. However, it is still unclear when, and in what form, such regulations can be expected. Regarding the rights of works councils in AI utilisation, the German government's stance is yet to be fully articulated.

1 printed matter 20/10198
printed matter 20/10198