Andy Jackson, head of finance at Imosphere
With the UK government currently discouraging people from using public transport, we’re set to see an increase in the number of cars on British roads.
As employees return to work it’s likely that they’ll choose to jump in their cars instead of on buses and trains.
However, organisations aren’t only responsible for the safety of their staff in the workplace, they also have a duty of care to their employees when driving at work, regardless of whether it’s using a company car, a hire car or their own car.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is very clear and requires employers to take appropriate steps to safeguard staff and members of the public.
Whilst some organisations are unsure of the guidelines when employees use their own vehicles to perform any job-related tasks – known as grey fleet drivers.
Businesses have the same duty of care to ensure all vehicles used for business purposes are safe and legal to be on the road.
Whether it’s travelling to a meeting or nipping to the bank, the legislation applies across the board.
This means that every employee needs a valid driving licence and that every vehicle needs to be properly taxed, with a valid MOT (if over three years old) and serviced regularly.
Additionally, businesses must also check the employee’s insurance to make sure it includes business use cover.
At the very minimum employees should have Class 1 business insurance that covers their journeys during working hours.
The Health and Safety Executive indicates that more than a quarter of all road traffic incidents may involve somebody who is driving as part of their work, so businesses need to take a proactive approach.
The cost of unsafe driving
Work-related driving that becomes unsafe or illegal can result in substantial legal, reputational and financial repercussions for businesses if driver and vehicle documents have not been checked and recorded.
If a driver, who fails to meet the minimum requirements is involved in an accident while working then the consequences are considerable.
In the event of an incident, an organisations practises come under scrutiny and any investigation which finds a poor or non-existent process of checking drivers is likely to expose a failure in duty of care.
This could result in sizeable fines as well as claims for compensation made by those who suffer injury or damage as a result of employer negligence.
It’s important to keep in mind that fines for conviction under the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 are based on the size and turnover of the business.
Fines start at £300,000 and there is no maximum limit. In the worst cases, under the Corporate Manslaughter Act, employers, including senior managers and directors could find themselves facing prosecution and even prison sentences.
Regular licence checking should be part of a business’s overall risk assessment.
It’s important that a complete view of an employee’s driving history is carried out periodically through their employment and businesses are encouraged to keep the most up-to-date information available on all their drivers.
Failing to do so, means that businesses have no way of knowing whether employees have previously committed an offence since the last check.
Driving down risk
It can be cumbersome and time consuming for employers to gather information about their employees’ personal vehicles.
But with a duty of care towards staff and financial penalties on the line, no employer wants to be in the dark about whether or not their grey fleet drivers have valid MOT, tax and insurance.
Having visibility over a vehicle’s road-worthiness and last service enables finance and HR departments to ensure that workplace journeys are carried out safely and legally.
If the driver and vehicle validation process can be combined with business expenses and claiming business mileage then all the better.
As part of our digital expense management solution from Selenity, we use their enhanced duty of care service.
This allows us to carry out automatic checks of driver and vehicle data using data sourced from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency.
Currently, there isn’t a way for businesses themselves to automatically check insurance documents using the Motor Insurance Database (MID) managed by the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) – only police and insurance providers have access.
However, with the outsourced insurance validation service from Selenity, we ensure that all our employee’s claiming mileage upload their insurance documents so that they can be checked within our expenses system.
Not only does this remove the time-consuming process of checking individual drivers documents but as the checks are electronically carried out, we don’t need to store large amounts of physical documentation.
Businesses often fail to establish whether employees have the correct level of insurance cover.
But using digital expense management software with driver compliance functionality built in, means that unless employees have been checked and validated they won’t be able to claim business mileage expenses.
Finance departments who withhold the reimbursement of travel expenses to staff who aren’t correctly covered minimise their risk.
If an accident were to occur then it would be more likely the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would see a strong case that duty of care has been carried out properly.
Putting the brakes on uncompliant drivers
The effective management of work-related road safety not only helps to reduce risk but also clearly demonstrates a commitment to safeguarding employees.
By regularly checking the licences of employees, it’s possible to determine whether drivers remain appropriate to make work-related journeys.
In the long run this reduces the chance of facing financial penalties and the risk of being prosecuted under Corporate Manslaughter legislation.
Whether you have ten or a thousand drivers, a business’s duty of care obligations remains the same.
The process is an ongoing one and enlisting the help of a reputable third-party provider can help make validation more accurate and efficient for everyone involved.
Allowing organisations to remain compliant and confident they are correctly covered as well as enabling finance teams to focus on the day-to-day - without fear of unexpected penalties and safe in the knowledge that it’s being taken care of.