Apparently, we are on the cusp of the next great technological revolution. Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to save us all. You may have heard about Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer or ChatGPT, an AI language processing tool, which can answer questions, assist with tasks, and write letters and essays. Should lawyers be concerned about our jobs? Are we yet redundant?
Let’s see what it can do. After spending a few minutes creating a free account, I am in. In this scenario, I am running a small company and badly need help with employment matters.
Here is a simple task just to test it out:
“I have a shop assistant and caught her on CCTV stealing till cash. Can you prepare a letter inviting her to a disciplinary meeting?”
This is what appeared on my screen:
“I’m sorry to hear about that situation. I can certainly help you prepare a letter inviting your shop assistant to a disciplinary meeting.”
Well, this confidence is reassuring.
“Here’s a sample letter you could use as a guide:
[Your Company Letterhead]
[City, State ZIP Code]
Dear [Employee Name],
We regret to inform you that we have recently discovered an incident of theft at our store which has been captured on CCTV footage. The footage shows that you have taken money from the till on [Date and Time].
As an employee of [Company Name], you have a responsibility to uphold our values and maintain the trust of our customers. Unfortunately, your actions have breached that trust and resulted in a serious breach of our company policies.
We are therefore inviting you to a disciplinary meeting, which will take place on [Date] at [Time]. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the incident and for you to have an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against you. We would also like to discuss the company’s policies and procedures, which have been breached by your actions.
At this meeting, you will be given the opportunity to present your version of events, and we will also present the evidence we have gathered. Following the meeting, we will consider all the facts presented and decide on an appropriate course of action.
Please be aware that this is a serious matter, and if the allegations are proven, it could lead to termination of your employment. You have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or union representative at the meeting, and we advise you to take advantage of this opportunity.
Please confirm your attendance at this meeting by [Date], so that we can make the necessary arrangements.
If you have any queries about this meeting or any other concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Oh my! I am duly impressed. Leaving aside that this system managed to generate (create? write?) a coherent letter template, which is a remarkable feat on its own, it is fit for the task. I was keen to see three points in the template, highly relevant but often overlooked: 1) the right to be accompanied, 2) a warning about potential dismissal is present, and 3) it was stressed the employee would be allowed to put forward their case before any decision is made. Isn’t it wonderful how the system dealt with missing details by putting in square brackets?
If I am to be critical, I would mention potential gross misconduct and I do not like the references to the policies. It is a clear-cut case, stealing is gross misconduct whether or not mentioned in the disciplinary policy and irrespective of any cash handling procedures my business may have. Worse still, my company may not even have the relevant policies. Could it not just guide me to refer to the disciplinary policy, if in place, and enclose a copy?
Well done silicon brain. However, the internet is abundant with various templates for this task, and I am sure quite a few of them will be usable. Let us try something harder:
”I am recruiting a full-time receptionist to work Monday to Friday, 35 hours a week, pay will be £25,000 per annum paid monthly in instalments. Annual leave will be a statutory minimum. Can you prepare her employment contract? Oh, I forgot to add – she will be based in our head office at 1 Blackacre Lane, Grantchester. She will not be required to work elsewhere.”
This is what came back:
“[Your Company Letterhead]
[City, State ZIP Code]
Dear [Employee Name],
We are pleased to offer you the position of full-time receptionist at [Company Name]. This employment contract sets out the terms and conditions of your employment with our company.
Commencement Date: [Insert Date]
Salary: Your annual salary will be £25,000, paid monthly in instalments. This salary is subject to review in accordance with our company’s annual performance review process.
Hours of Work: You will be required to work 35 hours per week, from Monday to Friday. Your hours of work will be from [Insert Start Time] to [Insert End Time] with a one-hour lunch break. You will be based at our head office at 1 Blackacre Lane, Grantchester and will not be required to work elsewhere. You may be required to work additional hours to meet the demands of the business. Overtime pay will be paid at the company’s standard rates.
Annual Leave: You will be entitled to statutory minimum annual leave, which is currently 28 days per year, including bank holidays.
Sickness Absence: You will be entitled to sick leave in accordance with our company’s sickness absence policy.
Probationary Period: You will be subject to a probationary period of [Insert Duration], during which time your performance and suitability for the role will be reviewed. This period may be extended if necessary.
Notice Period: If you wish to terminate your employment, you must give [Insert Notice Period] written notice. The company reserves the right to make a payment in lieu of notice.
Confidentiality: You will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement, which sets out your obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the company’s business information.
Data Protection: You will be required to comply with our company’s data protection policy, which sets out your obligations in relation to the use and protection of personal data.
Grievance Procedure: If you have any grievances relating to your employment, you should raise them in accordance with our company’s grievance procedure.
Termination: Your employment may be terminated by either party by giving notice in accordance with the notice period set out above, or in the event of a breach of contract.
This employment contract supersedes all previous agreements, whether oral or written. If you have any questions regarding this contract, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Please sign and return the enclosed copy of this contract to indicate your acceptance of these terms and conditions.
We look forward to welcoming you to our team.
Hmmm… It looks like an employment contract and it reads like one, but I would not hesitate to bin it as it does not reflect the legal requirements and cannot be used.
I find it interesting that the correct annual leave was inserted – a minimum of 28 days inclusive of bank holidays. This would imply that the system had some reference to the relevant law. But then, why is the statutory minimum notice not mentioned? I asked it for the contract once more, this time it stated one week’s notice while on probation and one month’s notice afterward for either party. This is not correct.
To mention just a few other things… Where is the date of continuous service start? Grievance procedure was mentioned, why not disciplinary procedure, why? I do not wish to bore you with a long list of points that are obligatory for employment contracts but are not mentioned.
As for the place of work, this was an instruction designed to trick, and it did. I said that my new employee would only be required to work in the head office but what if the office moves, or another one opens? Surely, I would prefer the flexibility of a mobility clause.
One last question I entered:
“What steps should I follow to dismiss a pregnant employee?”
The response was a generic guide: review the situation, consult with the employee, seek alternatives to dismissal, consider reasonable adjustments, and document the process. It mentioned that there must be a good reason for dismissal, “such as poor performance, misconduct, or redundancy.” It warned me of discrimination risk, but it did not warn that poor performance and conduct could relate to the pregnancy. Reasonable adjustments would be more relevant for a disabled employee, in pregnancy cases, it would be more accurate to talk about a risk assessment and mitigating health and safety risks to the pregnant employee.
For me personally, the below bit was fascinating:
“Consult an expert: Seek advice from a legal expert or HR consultant who has experience in employment law and discrimination issues. They can provide guidance on the best way to handle the situation, including the legal requirements and risks associated with dismissing a pregnant employee.”
Thank you ChatGPT, I will forego commission. For now, at least, do not ask open AI for legal advice. Talk to your legal advisor.