Firms warned to tighten mobile phone policies

Employers
are being warned to tighten up mobile phone policies after a delivery company
was saved from prosecution thanks to its well-worded employee handbook.

In
the first case of its kind, which took place in the North East, one of the
company’s drivers was forced to accept sole responsibility for a fatal accident
that occurred while he was using a hand-held mobile phone.  Sentencing takes place on 6 August.

The
company meanwhile avoided prosecution because it had supplied all mobile
employees with clear, written rules on the use of mobile phones while driving,
in line with new regulations that came into force last December.

Russell
Brown, employment law specialist at Manchester firm Glaisyers, said to avoid
liability, all employers should provide clear, written guidelines to drivers,
sales reps and other mobile employees, preventing them from using mobile phones
while in control of a vehicle.

"Employers
who insist that employees should be contactable during working hours in the
knowledge that they may be driving must equip them with a suitable hands-free
kit which meets specific criteria, including fixed internal speakers and
Bluetooth accessories,” he said.

“Phones
with cradles or earpieces that need to be operated manually are not allowed.

"Providing
employees with mobile phones is not an offence, but forcing them to make or
receive calls while driving is.

"Employers
should also ensure that employees sign for the handbook.  This will provide proof that the company has
taken sufficient measures to prevent workers from breaking the law," Brown
said.

By Michael Millar

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