Artificial intelligence

Generative AI in the Belgian workplace: how employers can navigate the legal challenges

Published on 13th Mar 2024

What should companies bear in mind when thinking about how to adopt and utilise generative AI?

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The integration of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in the workplace presents a myriad of opportunities and challenges for employers. It is, therefore, crucial to address the legal considerations associated with implementing generative AI systems within an organisational setting. 

From data privacy concerns to intellectual property (IP) issues, employers must navigate a complex legal landscape to harness the benefits of this cutting-edge technology.

Data privacy and protection

One of the primary legal challenges when adopting generative AI in the workplace revolves around data privacy and data protection. These systems often rely on vast amounts of data to generate insights, predictions, or creative content. Employers must ensure compliance with data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.

Under the GDPR, employers must obtain explicit consent from employees before collecting and processing their personal data. Additionally, transparency in data processing practices is crucial. Employers must clearly communicate the purpose, nature, and scope of AI-driven data processing to employees, ensuring that their rights are respected.

Bias and Discrimination

Generative AI models are trained on historical data; if that data contains biases, the AI system may perpetuate and even exacerbate these biases. These biases are of particular concern if they facilitate potential discrimination in the workplace. Employers must be vigilant in addressing bias in AI algorithms to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all employees.

From a legal perspective, employers may face discrimination claims if AI-driven decisions disproportionately affect certain groups. Technology lawyers have a critical role to play in advising employers on how to implement measures to identify and mitigate bias in AI systems, promoting fairness and inclusivity.

IP rights

Generative AI systems have the capability to create original content, raising questions about IP rights. Employers must clarify ownership and rights associated with AI-generated work. Legal frameworks need to be established to define whether the employer, the AI developer, or the individual employee owns the intellectual property rights to the output generated by the AI system.

This requires careful drafting of contracts and policies to explicitly address ownership issues related to AI-generated content. By consulting with a legal expert in technology law, employers can gain critical guidance on IP rights to protect their interests and avoid potential disputes.

Liability for AI-driven decisions

When AI systems make decisions that impact employees, customers, or other stakeholders, questions of liability arise. If an AI system makes a decision that leads to harm, who is responsible? Employers must consider the legal implications of AI-driven decision-making and establish accountability frameworks.

It's crucial for technology lawyers to advise employers on defining responsibility, implementing safeguards and incorporating transparency into AI decision-making processes. This not only protects the organisation from legal repercussions but also fosters trust among employees and stakeholders.

Employment and workforce impact

The introduction of generative AI may lead to changes in job roles, skill requirements and overall workforce dynamics. Employers must consider the legal aspects of these changes, including potential job displacement, retraining programs and adherence to labour laws.

As a technology lawyer, providing legal counsel on workforce transitions, negotiating employment contracts and ensuring compliance with relevant labour regulations becomes imperative. This proactive approach helps employers navigate the legal landscape surrounding AI adoption while fostering a positive relationship with their workforce.

Osborne Clarke comment

Embracing generative AI in the workplace offers tremendous potential for innovation and efficiency. However, as a technology lawyer based in Belgium with expertise in IT, it's essential to address the legal challenges associated with this transformative technology. From data privacy and bias mitigation to IP and liability considerations, employers must navigate a complex legal landscape to harness the benefits of generative AI responsibly. By staying informed and proactively addressing these challenges, organisations can pave the way for a legally sound and ethically responsible integration of generative AI in the workplace.

This is the first in a series of insights examining key issues around using generative AI technology in the workplace. These topics will also be explored in more depth in standalone insights to come.


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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