Friday, 15 January 2010

Phones warning for bosses

Shropshire staff who are caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving could cause trouble for their employer too. Tina Chander, from our Employment Law Team, said company bosses should set out strict rules on the use of mobile phones and other gadgets.

“Regulations prohibit drivers from using any hand-held mobile phone or similar device while driving, including while a vehicle is stationary in traffic. But you could also find that in theory, as a company director, you could be held responsible if you allow an employee to use a mobile phone while they’re at the wheel on company business.

“This could lead to a fine and/or penalty points on your own licence as a result, although the situation has not yet been tested in the courts.” Tina said this was because the regulations also make it an offence to “cause or permit” a driver to use their phone.

“Simply providing your employees with a hands-free kit and telling them to use it would probably not be enough to avoid the problem. Unless it has been set up for full voice activation, it will probably still be classed as a hand-held device.”

She said that if staff did not have access to such equipment, companies must make it clear that they must not use any hand-held devices while driving – and a mobile phone and gadget policy should be drawn up.

“Suggest your staff let their mobile divert to answerphone while they are travelling and that they return the calls later. And make sure your own officer workers never phone colleagues when they know they will be driving. It’s better for anyone who is on the road to phone the office between journeys to check for any messages.”

Tina said the rules not only covered sending or receiving mobile phone calls, but also text messages, access to the internet or email, and even checking images on a satellite navigation system.