Insurance bosses warn companies of liability risk over staff driving own cars for business

Bournemouth Echo: LIABLE: Companies are responsible for privately-owned cars LIABLE: Companies are responsible for privately-owned cars

BOSSES are being warned of their liability risk when allowing staff to drive their own cars on company business.

The message to company directors comes from Poole-based Alan & Thomas Insurance.

Stewart King, chief operations officer at the company, said: “Most employers will be aware that health and safety law applies to on-the-road work activities but they may not know that they owe the same duty of care to staff who drive their own vehicles for work as those who drive company-owned, leased or hired vehicles.

“If you permit employees to use their own cars for company business, either by providing a business mileage allowance or an annual cash allowance, irrespective of who owns the car, as a director, you have a legal duty to ensure the vehicle is safe or risk being held responsible for the employee’s negligence in the event of an accident, by virtue of vicarious liability.”

The definition of “safe” includes ensuring the vehicle is insured for business use and, if necessary, for the carrying colleagues as passengers.

“It also has to be roadworthy, with an MOT if required, serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommend-ations and suitable for the planned journeys.

Mr King added: “In addition, directors must satisfy themselves that journeys undertaken for any business purpose by employees are properly controlled, including ensuring that employees are licensed to drive and have not been disqualified, being satisfied that the itineraries are not excessive in terms of the time spent driving or anticipated mileage and that employees take care when scheduling appointments that require a very early or late departure, as statistically these are vulnerable times.”

A paper trail is required to prove such checks have been carried out, as well as evidence of appropriate policies. Just having the policy is not enough – the employer must also take steps to ensure they were followed.

An employer must also ensure staff’s licences are valid.

It is estimated that one in 12 UK drivers have inadvertently let their licences expire, with many unaware that photo licences must be renewed every 10 years.

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