By Andrew Williams,
In April the Government will introduce legislation that will have an impact on all motorists who use their cars for business purposes.
Over recent years tax changes have made company cars less attractive, and an increasing number of companies simply recompense their employees for using their own vehicles on company business. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which will be enacted on 6th April, will have serious repercussions for all employers who are paying their employees car expenses.
When the Act comes into force companies will be liable, and subject to prosecution, for any death resulting from a driving accident occurring during a journey taken for business purposes, even if the driver is using his/her own car. Given that the poor condition and maintenance of tyres is cited as a cause of a large number of road accidents, drivers are going to have to take greater heed of the state of their tyres.
The vast number of employees using their cars on company business are referred to as the ?grey fleet?, and it is currently estimated to involve up to one million employees. Fleet- management experts Arval report that 37% of companies clock up 10% of their mileage using employees? vehicles. As from April, employers will be obliged to ensure that these cars are maintained to the same standard as would be expected from a corporate fleet. According to Arval, employers are extremely remiss in checking on the condition of the vehicles their employees are using on company business. A significant proportion doesn?t even run checks on matters such as insurance or whether the car is MOT?d.
The recent smoking ban highlighted the position of a car as a place of work, and the concomitant Health and Safety issues. However, the new Act will create an offence of corporate manslaughter, and this could have serious implications for employers and employees alike. Accident rates for business drivers are significantly higher than those for private motorists, and the ?duty of care? responsibilities of employees are going to be increasingly significant.
Police regularly follow up investigations into accidents to ensure that road safety is included in a company?s health and safety policies. The penalties for corporate manslaughter have yet to be finalised, but the Sentencing Advisory Panel is suggesting that punishment could take the form of fines representing between 2.5% and 10% of company turnover.
Checking insurance, MOT certificates and tyre condition are three simple actions that employees can take to lessen their liability.