Don't reimburse expenses to unsafe company drivers
It may seem absurd, but whether you are a line manager, a HR or finance professional managing staff expenses, or even a company director, you are all on the line to pick up blame for your employee’s unsafe driving. Most business leaders seem to think it’s the sole responsibility of the driver to make sure their vehicle is taxed, insured, and in a good state of repair when driving for work purposes – it’s not.
Companies of all sizes have a legal duty of care to employees and members of the public and must take reasonable care to protect employees from the risk of foreseeable injury whilst they’re at work; the specific legislation that relates to driving falls under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It extends to ensuring privately owned vehicles used by employees for work purposes – commonly known as ‘grey fleet’ vehicles are used in a lawful manner.
There are an estimated 14 million grey fleet vehicles on UK roads. Of this total, 11.8 million are associated with the private sector and 2.2 million from the public sector, according to statistics from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).
The law is clear, regardless of whether it’s an employee’s own vehicle or not, employers have a legal obligation to ensure any work-related journeys are done in a safe and legal manner.
Bad driving habits of employees could also get businesses in trouble too. If any investigations into an incident were to reveal a culture where employees are expected to make journeys at unreasonable hours, or are encouraged to take long journeys without stopping for a break, for example, then fines could be given to line managers and company directors.
In short, if you don’t know whether your employees are good drivers or not, if you haven’t checked their driving licences or made sure their own vehicles are roadworthy, or the business is encouraging unsafe driving habits, you’re opening up your business to unnecessary risk.
Speeding, the law, and why you pick up the blame
Recent statistics from the Department of Transport on speeding are sobering at best, and shocking at worst – 46% of cars exceeded motorway speed limits in 2016, rising to 81% of drivers exceeding the speed limit of 20mph roads. One in 10 drivers regularly exceed speed limits by more than 10mph.
That’s a huge number of speeders each year, and it’s more than likely some of them will be your employees. Exceeding the speed limit was reported as a contributory factor for 15.1% of fatal road accidents in 2015.
If there is an incident during a work-related journey, the Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may check whether the correct policies and procedures are in place for duty of care and, if not, you and your company could be on the hook for fines, penalty points or even something more serious. The law is there not only to help protect employees from unsafe working practices, but to protect members of the pubic too, which is why it is so important employers take duty of care seriously.
Interestingly, if you approve expenses claims of bad drivers and you don’t have any evidence you have checked licence and MOT certificates, this could be taken by the HSE that you have not carried out your duty of care obligations.
So, what can you do to ensure your employees are safe to drive and you are meeting your obligations to work place safety?
Regardless of whether you are a company of five or 5,000, you need to collect and review documentation of all your drivers making work-related journeys and manage your grey fleet (commuting would be excluded from this). You’ll have to check their driving licences and what driving endorsements they may have, you should check personal vehicles are taxed and roadworthy by checking MOT certificates, you will have to check insurance documentation too to make sure they are covered to make work-related car journeys. And, you need to keep a record of this on file.
Unfortunately, this can be a huge administrative burden to collect and collate all driver, vehicle, and insurance information, store it and to update it annually. The DVLA does provide its own lookup service to check which vehicles a driver is eligible to drive and check for penalty points or disqualifications.
If you can, avoid keeping paper copies – we all know how much of a headache that can be to sort through. Scan, copy and save them into your finance or HR systems. There are plenty of cloud-based solutions that would allow saving of miscellaneous documentation, and there are some that have dedicated Duty of Care functionalities.
We know that the DVLA does allow third party organisations to source data from them to check driver details, so look for a provider that can offer this option and your admin burden will be reduced to almost zero.
According to Department for Transport statistics released in November 2017, 15 percent of vehicles involved in personal injury accidents in 2016 were being driven for work purposes (73 percent of those accidents were either listed as ‘Other/unknown’ so the real figure could be much higher).
The fact remains, driving is one of the most dangerous activities for employees to undertake for work purposes. Road accidents are the biggest cause of work-related accidental death, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimating costs arising from ‘at-work’ road traffic accidents are in the region of £2.7 billion per year.
It’s not uncommon to find that there’s no one person responsible for a company’s duty of care and that has to change. The UK’s roads are now busier than ever and it’s increasingly important that before your employees make any work-related journeys, you’ve carried out the necessary checks on driving licences and grey fleet vehicles.