Employers across Europe have been warned over the risks of allowing employees to use their own cars for work purposes, as people continue to avoid using public transport and demand for business travel grows as the economy gets back into gear.
This “grey fleet” of vehicles now being used for business travel isn’t just a UK issue, and is also a huge duty of care risk for HR leaders and employers, said Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s business mobility specialist Adrian Bewley, presenting new research from the firm.
The risks over driver health and safety and CO2 emissions can be even more pronounced as grey fleet cars tend to be older and more polluting and may lack the latest safety equipment” – Adrian Bewley, Enterprise Rent-A- Car
He said: “Business travel may seem far down the agenda of priorities and it may seem convenient to empower employees to use their own car and claim expenses for their business trips after the fact. However, there are many duty of care implications. UK employers are legally responsible for the condition of all vehicles used for work, even when they have little or no control over what people drive.”
Enterprise’s study found that in the UK, France and Germany, 62% of grey fleet drivers don’t regularly conduct essential basic maintenance checks to ensure their cars are safe and legal to drive. And nearly half (48%) of those who currently have a warning light showing on their dashboard do not plan to have it checked.
This was a duty of care risk and an operational concern, said Enterprise, because 32% of UK drivers and 28% of those in France and Germany admit that they’ve actually missed or were late to a business meeting because they were sorting out a vehicle repair.
The research cited studies have shown that the average age of a grey fleet vehicle in the UK is 8.6 years, compared with 9.8 in Germany and 10.6 in France, suggesting the risks are even more pronounced in mainland Europe where grey fleet cars tend to be older.
Encouragingly for the UK, only 7% of business drivers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who use their own cars for work said that their vehicle was only ever checked when it went in for its annual MOT/service. The figures were much worse in Germany where one in five (19%) failed to check their vehicle outside of the MOT and 21% of those in France.
The use of ageing vehicles for business in the UK and Europe exposed businesses to high emissions as well as duty of care risks, said Enterprise. This was an issue that HR needed to pay attention to, said Enterprise, not least because HR teams often processed employees’ mileage reimbursement for business travel.
The costs of mileage and kilometre reimbursement are rarely tracked and can lead to businesses spending tens of thousands of pounds and Euros on potentially unsafe business travel” – Adrian Bewley
Bewley added: “Travel restrictions and working from home has taken business travel off the HR radar. But we are now seeing pent-up demand as workers start to travel again and economies start to open up. Many are keen to get back in front of clients and suppliers and meet face to face. However, yesterday’s commuters may also become tomorrow’s business travellers if they mostly work from home and only visit the office for meetings. Travel policies and procedures will need to be revisited as the landscape evolves, as employees look for Covid-safe travel.
“The costs of mileage and kilometre reimbursement are rarely tracked and can lead to businesses spending tens of thousands of pounds and Euros on potentially unsafe business travel.
“The risks over driver health and safety and CO2 emissions can be even more pronounced as grey fleet cars tend to be older and more polluting and may lack the latest safety equipment. Again, many businesses have no way to track and control what vehicles their employees are driving for work.
“Many businesses have already switched to alternatives such as automated car clubs or daily rental to alleviate these risks and costs. It’s vital to analyse how their employees are travelling so they can create more cost-effective and sustainable ways for them to do so.”
He said Enterprise was working with HR teams across Europe to help them develop travel and mobility policies better suited to the hybrid work environment. “However, ” he said, “we’re still seeing many businesses that are unaware that this is an area where they need to provide clear guidance, and are therefore opening themselves up to risk.”