Mitch Frazer on automation, AI and the workforce

November 16, 2020

As advancements in automation and AI continue to evolve, many observers are worried about how new technology will replace or transform the workforce. Pensions and Employment chair Mitch Frazer spoke with HR Reporter about the implications of increasingly sophisticated automation on jobs.

Reflecting on a Spanish court case—where a court reinstated an employee whose job had been made redundant by an automated process—Mitch said it could set the precedent for future Canadian court battles.  

“I would not be surprised if it happened sooner [rather] than later because European law is a trendsetter and using those principles of that Spanish case could be extrapolated onto the Canadian impact. It wouldn’t surprise me if that case would be made because I think, as we see greater change [happen] rapidly, people will be concerned about the pace of change or being able to adapt,” Mitch said.

“Trying to figure out what law [was transgressed], that would be the difficulty here.”

Mitch also pointed out that employees in Canada do have protection in certain cases where technology has impacted their position.

“The principles that [employers] need to worry about when you’re switching a job—assuming that you want people to stay—in order to avoid constructive dismissal is you need to get either their consent or the job can’t have a fundamental change to it,” Mitch said.

LISTEN: What employment issues do business leaders face in the wake of COVID? Listen to partner Lisa Talbot in this episode of Torys Business Brief, where she will discuss relevant issues for employers, as well as how businesses can position themselves for the future.

Mitch provided the example of a job change from a server in a restaurant to a delivery person:
“That would be a different job because you’re not reporting to the same persons anymore: You’re going to the same place, but you’re doing a very different job. [The employer would] need their consent in order to change that job,” he said.

HR Reporter subscribers can view the full article on its website.

You can read more of Mitch and the team’s insights on the Pensions and Employment practice page.

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