Car phone threat for small business

New laws making it illegal to use mobile phones while driving, which came into force on Monday 1 December, leave small firms liable to heavy fines unless they take appropriate action, warns James Dirks, a solicitor and chairman of the Southampton branch of the Federation of Small Business.

“Companies should ensure that all staff who may be required to use the phone while driving are provided with hands-free kits,” elaborates Dirks, even though there are currently moves for these to be banned too. “Alternatively it should become a disciplinary offence for [employees] to use phones illegally while driving on company business.”

Even if an employee is driving their own vehicle while on business, the employer is still obliged to follow the appropriate health and safety legislation, explains Gary Hull from accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“The police will make sure [a driver] was not on the phone at the time of an accident…if they are and unless you have specifically warned them of the dangers you, as a business, could be charged.”

The new rules also leave drivers prone to a £30 on-the-spot fine if they are caught so much as holding a mobile phone while their engine is switched on.

“Any employer who expects to contact team members while they are driving should give the issue immediate attention,” concludes Dirks.

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