Met gives employers mobile-use headache

Employers in London could receive a visit from the police if their company car drivers are caught using a mobile phone at the wheel, under a new scheme devised by the London Metropolitan Police and Transport for London. But some employers claim they are being unfairly treated because there is little they can do if their policy on cars and mobile phone use reflects the law and is clear. Nigel Trotman, relationship manager at Whitbread, said: "The problem is we can’t be expected to police our people all the time; what they are doing and where they are doing it. We have a policy laid out, and we tell our people the rules." Lawyers have warned of the dangers of not having a strict policy on mobile phone use.

David Whincup, partner and head of London human capital department at law firm Hammonds, said: "Employers need to reiterate the terms in the policy on this, and then enforce it. You can have the best policy in the world, but if you don’t make it clear to staff you are undermining what you have done." Employers have also been urged to ensure their health and safety policies, particularly around fleets, are watertight following the publication of the draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill.

The Bill, which has been presented to the House of Commons and is due to be debated for the first time on 10 October, proposes to clamp down on companies that do not appear to take the health and safety of workers seriously. It allows courts, when assessing a case, to consider the overall company’s treatment of employees, rather than focusing on one guilty individual. The proposal will pile more pressure on employers to either create new policies or review their existing ones. Roy Thornley, corporate manslaughter consultant, explained: "Fleet managers especially will have to look at a whole range of issues, including working excess hours behind the wheel, because the old adage ‘profit over safety’ will need reviewing."