I am the owner of a medium-sized consultancy business and, as part of their employment, our staff are required to visit a lot of conferences and events all over the country. What responsibilities and obligations do I have to keep them safe on business trips?
Business travel is, for many employees, a regular part of their role, but what are the implications for you as the employer?
Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) makes it clear that you as the employer have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of your employees, and this extends to providing a safe system of work for employees on business trips. In this respect, you are expected to provide adequate information, instruction and training to enable employees to remain safe while on business trips. Failure to discharge this duty could expose you to a negligence claim and/or prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive.
The HSWA is supplemented by an Approved Code of Practice that provides employers with useful detail about how to discharge their duties under the Act. Further, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for all work-related activities – including travel.
You should consider obtaining, as part of this risk assessment for a travelling employee, information about him or her, such as details of any medical conditions he or she might have, as well as information about the travel itinerary and mode of transport to be used. Before the employee travels, consider whether or not you have adequate employer’s liability insurance to cover the employee in the event that he or she has an accident while using public transport. Increasingly, many businesses are taking out specific business travel protection policies, tailored to providing specific support to employees who are travelling.
Further considerations include whether or not you have a “lone worker policy” in place where employees are travelling alone, which might require an additional assessment of risk. Employees should be made aware of their responsibilities when on business trips, for example taking appropriate rest breaks; maintaining the standards and reputation of the business; and the fact that policies that apply in the office also apply when outside of it.
In light of last week’s M5 collision, an important consideration for you will be what systems and procedures you have in place regarding both private and company car usage, and driver assessment. As a starting point, you should ensure that you have an adequate monitoring system in place in relation to vehicle maintenance and servicing for company cars. Where employees are using their own vehicles for business travel, you should have in place a policy requiring adequate insurance, servicing and MOTs, although responsibility for this will ultimately rest with the employee. General considerations for all drivers would include allowing for appropriate rest breaks, and communicating to all employees a clear policy on the use of mobile telephones while driving.
As with all travel, things can, and do, go wrong but, with appropriate planning, preparation and assessment, should something happen which is beyond your control, you can ensure that the impact on your employee, and your business, is minimised.
Jane Cox, partner in the employment team and Chris Green, partner in the regulatory team, Weightmans LLP
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