The Department of Transport reports that more than 20,000 people are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads each year, and a third of all road traffic accidents involve an at-work driver. Vehicle usage represents a significant source of risk for businesses, which applies to private vehicles and grey fleet as much as it does company vehicles, so HR should therefore ensure that their employer has a ‘driving at work’ policy in place, that appropriate risk assessments are conducted, and should put measures in place to mitigate identified risks. We have compiled a HR guide for driving at work to assist you on some of these specific issues:
Drink, Driving and Safe Driving
Driving, attempting to drive or to be in charge of a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law. Employers can be held liable for drunk driving accidents that occur during and even before or after work if an employee to drives a vehicle and is found to have driven whilst under the influence of alcohol.
Organisations can also be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter, therefore, employers should ensure that they have robust driver management policies and practices that stipulate driver’s responsibilities and encourage safe driving. Providing risk assessments so that the risks when driving are assessed effectively and are reduced as far as reasonably practicable, is a necessity.
Mileage and petrol, using company vehicles for private purposes
Most employers offer their employees expenses for travel for work purposes when using their own vehicles or, where employees utilise work vehicles, with some employees being issued with a fuel card or other means to refuel. Employers are not legally required to reimburse employees for business miles when using Company Vehicles but must do so when failure to reimburse would decrease an employee’s net wages below minimum wage.
Employers may also allow employees to use a company vehicle for private purposes. However employers must ensure that they have written documentation that sets out which/if employees have permission to drive the Company Vehicles for Private Business prior to the employee using the vehicle for personal use. Where there is authorised private use, this will result in tax implications for the driver and for the business and employers should ensure that clear procedures and processes are embedded across the organisation for recording and managing mileage to ensure HMRC compliance and safe driving.
Current legislation states that workers are forbidden to smoke in vehicles if it is used by one or more individuals, unless the employer agrees to it. Employers may also be liable for the repair costs of fleet vehicles that have been damaged from the build-up of high levels of second-hand smoke. Employers may also face fines of up to £2,500.00 if they do not stop employees from smoking in the workplace or if they fail to display ‘no smoking’ signs.
Therefore, employers should lay down the ground rules for staff to follow the “no smoking policy” and Business Owners should provide advice/support to line managers to ensure ‘no smoking’ regulations are managed appropriately.
It is illegal to use mobile phones while driving unless it has hands-free access. Hands-free equipment includes a Bluetooth headset, voice command or dashboard holder. The Health and Safety Executive recommend that Companies enforce best practice policies to ensure employees do not make any calls whilst driving, even when using hands-free.
Employers should have clear guidance on whether handsfree usage is permitted and should communicate their expectations effectively with all employees who drive for the purposes of work. Businesses that allow employees to use phones whilst driving face a range of liabilities, such as financial losses resulting from legal judgements, increased insurance premiums, fines and repair costs as well as employee compensation claims.
Employers also have a responsibility to reiterate the law on mobile phone usage and prohibit employees from using mobile phones whilst driving. Clearly defined policies that define employee responsibilities and offer advice or manage instances where employees use mobile phones whilst driving should be in place.
Insurance, servicing MOTs and driving licences
Business Vehicle Insurance, known as commercial vehicle insurance, is a legal requirement in the UK and is an important part of our HR guide for driving for work. The employer should be insured for any Company Vehicle and must be sure that their policies provide coverage for ‘non-owned’ and ‘hired’ vehicles so that the Company is then protected if an employee causes an accident.
Companies should also ensure that vehicles are fit for purpose, serviced regularly and maintained to a roadworthy standard to ensure the safety of employees and the public. Standard personal vehicle insurance policies often do not automatically cover business use, therefore, where an employee uses their own vehicle for the purposes for work, it is a requirement for companies to regularly check employee’s insurance to ensure adequate business cover is purchased.
In addition, checks on current MOT certificates and valid driving licences are a must before permitting the employee to use the vehicle for business use. If it is not checked, the employee may not be covered for any accident which happens whilst they are carrying out their work.
Employers should provide in writing clear rules that any parking or speeding fines are the employee’s own responsibility, and, if left to the Company to pay will be deducted from salary as agreed. In some cases, companies may charge administration fees for notices relating to such fines, so employers should ensure that they are clear around payment of administration fees.
Failure to effectively communicate fine management, may mean employers become liable for fines and penalties and an employer that deducts fines/penalties without proper authorisation and documentation may face unlawful deduction claims. Racking up huge fines, releasing clamps and cars from pound, together with administrative fees can become hefty bills for companies when they do not clearly communicate with staff and manage their expectations.
Keeping the vehicle secure and in first class condition
Employers should ensure that they set clear expectations with respect to maintaining Company Vehicles in a first-class condition whilst it is in the employee’s possession and set out the driver’s responsibilities for vehicle inspections, making sure it is road worthy and also the upkeep of the vehicles.
Poor vehicle upkeep may render the vehicle unsafe and not road worthy and employers can be financially liable for repairs to vehicles when returned. Branded vehicles are much more effective at increasing brand awareness because they are noticed more often by other drivers and passengers, however, employee behaviour and conduct must be closely managed when driving a branded vehicle, as any poor behaviour can cause reputational damage to the Company. Therefore, employees should be informed regularly of the behaviour and conduct that is expected when driving a Company Vehicle.
Stolen vehicles and equipment can disrupt business activity, increase customer dissatisfaction and increase insurance premiums. Therefore, providing documentation and clear effective communication to employees in respect to the security of Company Vehicles will reduce employer liabilities.
Monitoring – trackers
Most vehicle tracking solutions collect data on the whereabouts and routes that the vehicle has taken. Where trackers are fitted to vehicles there is a requirement for businesses to inform their employees of the tracking information that is being collected and the purpose and use of the data being collected to ensure it complies with the provisions of the Data Protection Act.
Where employees are not entitled to use the Company Vehicle for personal use, the tracking information may be used to verify that this has not happened. The driver’s right to privacy should be balanced against the legitimate rights of an employer to operate its business and protect the organisation and employers must demonstrate that the tracking is necessary, legitimate, proportionate and also that they are being transparent with the processing of data.
Terms and conditions around company vehicles
By law, written employment contracts are a day-one-right for employees as the purpose is to provide clarity and transparency around the employee-employer relationship. If driving for the purpose of work is a requirement of employment, then there should be relevant clauses within the contract of employment.
Managing Staff, disciplinary polices/handbook, reckless behaviour
Employers must ensure that they have robust policies, procedures and practices in place so that they can appropriately deal with instances of behaviour not conducive to safe driving for the purposes of work.
The employer has a duty to keep employees and the public safe, therefore they must make sure employees who drive vehicles demonstrate safe, efficient driving skills and other good road safety habits at all times. Through effective communication, correct documentation and also effective management of staff ,employers can reduce their liabilities associated with failure to take reasonable steps to protect all concerned.
For further information of how Centric HR can assist you with anything relating to driving for work please contact us here.