Analytics for the People? What algorithms at the workplace mean for worker rights and participation

In a joint project with the trade union syndicom, AlgorithmWatch CH is investigating how employees can be empowered when algorithmic systems are used in the workplace. The focus lies on how they can stand up for their rights and what concrete options and recommendations can be derived from this.
fragola designs for AlgorithmWatch

Automated Decision-Making (ADM) systems are being increasingly used at the workplace, be it to recruit people, to monitor workers' productivity or to optimize processes. These algorithmic systems sometimes make decisions or recommendations that are essential to employees, such as about promoting, advancing, rewarding, or even firing them.

The hope is that the use of algorithmic systems can improve the working environment, e.g. by optimizing processes or facilitating workflows. At the same time, there are fears of job losses, deterioration of working conditions, non-transparent decision-making processes, or discriminatory effects - all of which might be to the detriment of employees. Researchers and individual companies have come to the conclusion that the use of ADM systems in the workplace must be designed to ensure that employees have a say in the decisions and that their rights are safeguarded.

Aim of the project

The project aims to work out what such a design could look like in Switzerland. It addresses the following questions, among others:

  • How can ethical guidelines be practically applied in companies, with the participation of employees?
  • Where are legal gaps and gray areas with regard to the use of ADM systems in the workplace?
  • What political need for action can be derived from this?

Project steps

  • A basic analysis will be conducted to assess which ADM systems are used in Swiss workplaces.
  • Qualification concepts for employees and their representatives will be developed so that they can ensure an effective voice when ADM systems are used in the work context. Employees should have tools at their disposal to stand up for their rights and interests.
  • The need for political and legal action will be analyzed to ensure that employees and their representatives can participate in the relevant processes.

The report is available in german:

Project duration: November 2022 - February 2024

Project partner: