Employers have been warned that unless they issue clear policies outlawing
mobile phone use while driving on company business they could face fines of as
much as £2,500.
Laws banning individual drivers using hand-held devices such as mobile
phones and hand-held computers came into force this month, but employers could
also be liable if an offence is committed by staff.
Amendments to the Road Vehicles (construction and use) Regulations 1986
state that anyone who "causes or permits any other person to use a
hand-held mobile phone while driving" will also be liable for a fine.
Employment lawyers are warning that directors or managers could be
responsible if they instruct or expect staff to use a phone in a way that
breeches the new rules.
The Department of Transport issued guidance that explained employers would
not be committing an offence by distributing mobile phones for work use, but
could be held accountable if they told staff to do so.
The guidelines also recommended that companies should ban staff from using
any mobile device while driving on company business.
Stephen Elliott, an associate at law firm Ward Hadaway, said firms should
issue a formal policy to staff that made clear it was not acceptable to break
the new rules while at work.
"Employers need to be very wary of these rules and a comprehensive
policy on mobile phone use is recommended. It should be made perfectly clear
that using a phone to make or receive business calls while driving amounts to
gross misconduct," he said.
Drivers caught breaking the new rules will receive a £30 fine (shortly
rising to £60 and three penalty points) while Icis, a business mobile provider,
predicts that employers could be fined £2,500 per driver.