New provisions are coming into force today making it an offence for any person to drive a car whilst using a hand-held mobile phone (this includes texting) or for a person to "cause or permit" any other person to do so.
Pushing buttons on a phone whilst it is in a cradle or on the steering wheel is allowed. An individual must simply not hold the phone with their hand or in any other way, ie between their head and shoulder, whilst driving. A hand-held phone can, therefore, only be used when the car is parked, provided the engine is switched off.
What does this mean for employers?
Employers could be liable under this provision if they require an employee to use a hand-held phone to carry out company business whilst driving, or if they fail to forbid employees from using hand-held phones whilst driving. Employers will not be liable simply because they supplied a mobile phone or because they telephone an employee who is driving. Currently employers could be fined £30 (although this is due to be increased). They can also be held to be criminally liable in the event the employee is involved in an accident whilst using the mobile phone.
What should employers do?
Employers should inform employees that:
they may not use hand-held mobile phones whilst driving in order to carry out company business;
if they need to make a business call or receive a business call whilst using a hand-held phone, they should park their car in a safe and lawful place, turn off the engine, and then make/take the call; and
failure to do comply with the above could result in disciplinary action.
If the company knows that some/all of its employees use their hand-held phones to conduct company business, employers should consider providing the relevant employees with hands-free equipment (at a cost of £15 - £20).