Legal Obligations Owed to Employees Driving at Work
Employers fall under a number of legal obligations to ensure that their employees and members of the public remain reasonably safe from their business related activities.
- A general duty of care to their employees and other road users to take such steps as are reasonable to ensure their safety, having regard to the nature of the risk and the likelihood of loss or damage.
- Road traffic legislation requires that the driver of a vehicle is correctly licensed to drive that vehicle. Employers can commit an offence if they cause or permit an employee to drive on their behalf either unlicensed or improperly licensed. There are also legal requirements in relation to vehicles that are used in the course of an employee’s work; they should be properly taxed, insured, safe for use on the road and where applicable have a current MOT. These obligations apply irrespective of the actual ownership of the vehicle.
- Both employer and employee may be subject to contractual rights and obligations that arise as a result of their relationship. This can include contractual terms or internal policies and guidance relating to acceptable and unacceptable forms of behaviour (drink, drugs etc.) or a requirement that employees comply with certain procedures and rules. Failure to observe these terms and policies could lead to disciplinary action or dismissal for employees and/or court or tribunal proceedings for employers where wrongful dismissal or breach of contract is alleged.
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and regulations place employers under a legal obligation to take reasonable and proportionate precautions to ensure that employees and contractors are safe at work. This includes provision for proper training on any equipment used in their job and an obligation to make sure that it is properly maintained and suitable for the task in hand. The Health and Safety Executive have published specific guidance on the use vehicles at work Driving at Work: Managing Work-related Road Safety making it clear that the obligation owed to employees not only covers the safety and suitability of their vehicle, but also includes proper policies, training, qualifications (driving licence entitlements) physical state and standards of expected behaviour. New sentencing guidelines for breaches of the Act implement increased fines designed to ‘hurt’ directors and shareholders.
- In the most serious of cases, directors and senior management could be charged under legislation relating to Corporate Manslaughter or face other criminal charges.
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