A Duty of Care is a legal obligation imposed on an individual or organization requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.
In relation to a company’s vehicle fleet, this means making sure that whenever an employee is driving on company business, the vehicle they are using is safe and legal and the employee is driving legally.
An Employers Duty of Care responsibility
Many employers are not aware of the law in relation to Duty of Care. The Corporate Manslaughter Act was recently strengthened to target company directors as well as their drivers in cases of road deaths involving vehicles used on business.
Business owners and company directors are liable to prosecution if they fail to provide clear policies and guidance for their employees driving at work.
Duty of Care and Employee-owned Vehicles
A little known fact is that privately owned vehicles used for business journeys are treated exactly the same as company owned vehicles. This also applies to part-time employees and volunteers, including those who only occasionally drive on company business using their own vehicle. Directors have an equal responsibility under the law to ensure these vehicles are roadworthy and correctly insured.
In fact, part of the employers Duty of Care policy should include undertaking regular physical vehicle checks, checking the vehicle has a valid MOT, making sure drivers only carry passengers for whom there are seat belts, and ensuring a vehicle is not used in conditions for which it is not designed.
Employer Duty of Care Policy
Every business should have in place a ‘Driving at Work’ policy covering risk assessment and a system for managing road risk, no matter how few vehicles they have. By making sure every employee signs up to the policy, the Directors can reduce the risk of being prosecuted and a possible custodial sentence, and can ensure they are meeting their Employer Duty of Care obligations.