Robots are taking over – will technology displace human employees?

2nd April 2023

I visited the London Science Museum’s: Voyage into Science Fiction exhibition over the weekend and happened across a curious display: Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR).

Reading the display’s synopsis, the HSR was designed to assist humans who are disabled or have severe mobility issues; its primary function being to fetch items, open doors, and interact with humans.

UN statistics predicted that, by 2050, the global population, aged over 65, is predicted to reach 1.5 billion. Toyota intends the HSR to be rolled out to assist those within that demographic, as required.

Naturally, this is another contribution to a long-debated topic: “Will robots take over our jobs?” As we know, it has already started. Automation handles menial labour, online customer service, and other functions but, with the HSR, are we seeing sectors like social care, which requires a human touch, falling to advancing technology and is it necessarily a bad thing?

You may remember the rise in allegations of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment that vulnerable and elderly patients suffered at the hands of negligent carers which led to an overwhelming amount of safeguarding concerns – I recall the first employment case I assisted on as a trainee  involved the dismissal of a negligent care worker – and one has to ask whether robots would be better suited to this job than humans.

I am being slightly sensationalist, of course, as I  appreciate that there are many conscientious and well-trained staff but, why would anyone risk subjecting one of their family members to the poor treatment of the small minority of care workers.  Is it possible that they and their family member, may feel more at ease knowing they were living in their own home, unrestricted by visiting hours, and that an HSR, whose sole purpose is to provide the best standard of care, was there to look after them?

Obviously, this includes practical support but, it may also come to a point where robots are designed to look like humans and even be programmed to convey emotional intelligence and act according to the sitauiton before them. Assume that is the case and, by 2050, there is an HSR in the home of every vulnerable person, what impact would that have on the social care industry? Well, presumably, it could mean mass redundancy.

At present, there are roughly 1.5 million social care workers in the UK and that is estimated to reach 2 million by 2030. However with advancing technologies, such as the HSR, which will only become more sophisticated in the coming years and will likely adopt generative AI and machine learning this may result in social care being carried out more effectively and efficiently than humans who need sleep, wages and a social life. Technology will offer what humans cannot: 24/7 care.

From a logistical viewpoint, care homes will only need to worry about programming, software updates, maintenance, and data protection. Why wouldn’t they make redundant their human care workers in favour of machines and the engineers who maintain?

On the other hand, what happens if something does go wrong; who is liable? The robot or the manufacturer? My view is that the robot is built and programmed by humans, and if it commits an unlawful act due to a fault, then the buck stops with the person or persons who designed it.

However, if the person or persons who designed the robot is employed by the care home, are they ultimately responsible because they are vicariously liable for the actions of their employee(s)? If a claim is successfully brought against the care home, then presumably the premiums on the insurance policy over robot care workers (assuming one is taken out) will likely go up – the question is: how high?

While costs are down by displacing human care workers, a new suite of legal issues are inserted in their place (and I’m only talking about the ones that fall within the scope of this article!) It is in equal parts exciting and terrifying to consider what advancing technologies will bring and SMB strive to place themselves are the forefront of this ever-changing world.

If you have any concerns about how technology will impact your business, get in touch at and I’d be happy to discuss.