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New Research Reveals a Third of SMEs Plan To Replace Staff With AI

Published September 3, 2023 (last updated on March 4, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Australia, 4 September 2023 – New research released today delves into how Australian small business owners and operators are feeling about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in their workplaces, and the impact it’s having on business operations.  

Responses from Australian respondents highlight that despite an anticipated impending AI takeover
across the business economy, its adoption is still very much in its infancy in Australia with more than half (59%) having not yet implemented in in their business.

The survey of 79,000 businesses across five countries – Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK – was conducted by Peninsula Group, a global employment law, HR, and health & safety advisory and consultancy firm – to look at the opportunities and concerns employers have around the use of AI in the workplace.  

30% of employers globally cite security risk as their biggest concern around AI in the workplace. Increased margin of error, impact on the team’s work quality and/or productivity, and the risk of losing intellectual property also ranked high on the list of concerns.  

Where businesses have incorporated AI into the business, the majority are using it for administrative tasks (40%) or creative writing (35%). A third of businesses in Ireland that use AI are using it for customer services, while a quarter of Australian employers and a third of Canadian employers are using AI to draft internal or company communications.  

Other key findings include:  

  • More than 50% of employers in Australia, Canada, and Ireland who use AI are unsure of its impact. 

  • Ireland has embraced AI the most of the five countries surveyed, with 10% of Irish employees saying it’s regularly used in their business – double that of Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. 

  • Only a third of employers believe AI has the potential to positively transform many workplaces. 

  • Canadians are the most cautious, with 17% of employers believing that AI will be highly detrimental and 13% saying they are fearful of the unknown elements around AI.  

  • Australia was the only country where fear of the unknown with AI and how it impacts business finished in the top 3 responses.  

  • 40% of employers globally believe people are irreplaceable in their business.  

  • Over half of employers are either unsure or believe that AI will probably reduce the number of people employed at their company at some point.  


Employsure Australia and New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, David Price.

Employsure Australia and New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, David Price, says “Throughout history, mechanical and technological advances have played a significant role in the changing face of industry, streamlining processes, reducing labour costs, and increasing productivity. AI is the latest in a long line of innovations – and it’s clear from these results that employers’ opinions are divided.  

“While many can see the benefits of AI, there are still significant concerns around security, increased margin of error, and potential loss of intellectual property that need to be addressed before we will see widespread implementation across global businesses.  

“What is surprising is the low percentage of employers who are currently embracing AI. Australia leads the way with 41% of businesses currently using AI in some way or another, compared to New Zealand where only 35% of businesses have started to use AI. I expected this to be much higher for a country of fast tech adopters.  

“The concerns around security make sense, given the general risk for employers opening themselves up for potential cyber attacks with increased use of unregulated AI platforms”.  

“Despite AI not being widely utilised at work yet, it’s interesting to see that those who are using it are seeing a positive impact on their business, with only 2% stating that it’s been a negative experience for them.”  

“It’s this combination of AI and personal knowledge that I think will be most valuable to employers as we see more and more integration and uptake in businesses around the world. Speeding up processes and freeing up people’s time to concentrate on providing the best service to clients, using their knowledge to solve complex problems with the personal touch and human interaction that is so valuable, even in this digital age.”  


Notes to editor  

Methodology: This survey was conducted online on a global sample, with an Australian and New Zealand sample of n= 382 businesses. Respondents are small business clients of Employsure, representative of a wide industry base.  

Download survey infographic with key findings.  

About Employsure  

Employsure is Australia’s leading workplace advisory firm for SMEs, advising more than 31,000 clients in Australia and New Zealand on workplace relations and workplace health & safety issues. Its advice line allows businesses to speak with its team of workplace relations specialists, and through onsite visits to their business.  

Media contact 

Molly Chandran – Public Relations Specialist, Employsure  

T: 0438 560 779| E: [email protected] 

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