Employers could be liable for in-car phone use

While 68% of employers are aware of harsher penalties introduced last month for mobile phone use in the car, nearly one in four could still be liable for prosecution if their employees use a mobile phone for work-related calls while driving.

Under Department of Transport guidelines, employers are liable if they require employees to use a hand-held phone while driving or if they fail to forbid employees to use such phones on company business.

Research by YouGov for Jabra found that 22% of businesses still do not have such a policy in place.

Predictably enough, smaller businesses are the worst offenders with only one third of SMEs having a suitable policy in place.

 “Our survey highlights confusion amongst employers regarding their responsibility under legislation governing in-car mobile phone use for work-related calls,” commented Andrew Doyle, UK Country Manager for Jabra. “Given the high awareness of employer liability under existing mobile phone laws, it is worrying that only 78% of companies actually have a policy in place to ensure the safety of their staff and reduce the risk of prosecution, especially when providing a solution can cost less than £20 per employee.

“Employers should be aware that, in addition to their liability under the mobile phone legislation, the Health and Safety at Work Act makes it a legal duty to take all reasonable practical measures to ensure the safety of their staff and of those they come into contact with while working. This law applies to employees using the phone on the road for work-related calls. Employers should also be aware of the possible charge of corporate manslaughter in cases where a business driver has a fatal accident.”

Jabra suggests five simple steps for businesses that could usefully be passed on to your customers:
• Decide on the best approach to in-car mobile use for company business – such as providing employees with hands-free kit
• Make sure users are provided with guidelines on how to use such kit in compliance with the law
• Introduce a written policy regarding the safe and appropriate use of phones on the road – and make sure all employees are given a copy
• Ensure the policy covers privately-owned mobiles as well as company phones
• Include the mobile phone policy as part of the induction procedures for new employees.

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