Fleet managers have been assured that no offence under the Data Protection Act will be committed by their employers when accessing employees’ driving licence records held by the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA).
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has given the green light to ACFO, the UK representative body for fleet decision-makers, amid concerns raised by some fleet managers over the interpretation of Section 56 of the Data Protection Act 1998.
The issue was raised by ACFO members as the Government pushes ahead with its decision to abolish from June 8, 2015 the counterpart to the driving licence.
In its place the DVLA is introducing its own online system enabling employers to check comprehensive driving licence data held on individual employees.
While some employers already require employees to sign a mandate allowing the checking of their driving record with the DVLA via a third party provider, other organisations physically check driving licence documents, including the counterpart, which contains vital information including penalty points and offences.
As a result of the imminent counterpart abolition, some ACFO members have questioned their ability to not only check driving licence validation and details of convictions but, critically, suggested they could be breaking the Data Protection Act in insisting that employees agree to sign a mandate allowing access to their driving records.
Now the ICO, which is the UK’s independent body set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals including specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act as well as other legislation, has given clear guidance to fleet chiefs and their employers.
The ICO told ACFO: “ACFO members should continue to access DVLA records to ensure that employees are entitled to drive. ACFO members will not be committing an offence under Section 56 of the Data Protection Act if they use the process recommended by the DVLA.”
The ICO called the driving licence record checks made by employers to ensure their employees are entitled to drive as “legitimate and important”.
It added in its response to the inquiry by Philip Somarakis, ACFO company secretary and a partner in London-based Gordon Dadds Solicitors: “We have held discussions with DVLA about the changes being introduced as a result of the abolition of the counterpart and are satisfied that these are proportionate.”
Somarakis, who is also a member of the DVLA’s Consumer Forum, which discusses access to its data, said: “The ICO interpretation of the legislation is now clear following ACFO’s intervention. Employers need have no fears of breaking the Data Protection Act when insisting that employees sign a mandate allowing access to their driving records.
“It was not totally clear whether employers could even ask employees to disclose their driving licences where they contained details of convictions
“ACFO has now asked the ICO to include a statement to that effect in its official guidance in respect of Section 56 of the Data Protection Act. We await the ICO’s decision.”
Driver licence validation and the checking of penalty points is a critical part of employers’ duty of care under health and safety legislation and an essential feature of all occupational road risk management policies.
Somarakis said: “The checking of driving records has been a lawful activity to date in the context that employers can insist that employees agree to it or it could become a disciplinary matter. This is not about punitive measures being taken by employers against employees, but a good approach to managing on-road risk.”