Businesses in Birmingham are being warned that the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter Act, which becomes law from next April, could trigger a raft of prosecutions as a result of poor management of business mileage.
The warning comes from the Wilkes Partnership following a report from company car specialist, Arval, which identified that many businesses are failing to manage properly non-company cars used for business.
The new report found that employers are failing to check even basic details about private vehicles used for company purposes.
It highlights that 83 per cent of businesses have no procedures in place to ensure that non-company cars are regularly maintained, while 74 per cent of businesses do not ask their employees for a valid MoT certificate for their vehicles. The report also reveals that 35 per cent of businesses do not check the driving licences of non-company car drivers and 53 per cent have no policy for knowing that the vehicle is insured for business use.
Jennifer Allen, a member of the Wilkes Partnership employment team, said: "The Corporate Manslaughter Act reinforces the obligation on a company to comply with existing health and safety legislation and makes it easier to prosecute companies following fatal accidents.
"There has been much discussion about this in relation to the workplace, but not in relation to vehicles when used on company business.
"However, any car used for business mileage be this a private or company vehicle can be considered an extension of the workplace and directors could face potential prosecution in the event of a road accident if this vehicle is in bad condition or poorly managed. That this new report highlights that so many business are not applying effective management to non-company vehicles is alarming.
"Just as businesses make sure their employees are safe in the workplace, so they should when they are on the road."
Ms Allen also points to an announcement from the Crown Prosecution Service that it intends to work with the Health and Safety Executive to assess employer responsibility in the event of workplace driving accidents, as further evidence that company driving could come under scrutiny.
Police forces across the UK are also scrutinising all the circumstances involved in traffic collisions including the condition of the vehicle and why the driver was on the road, including if they were travelling for business reasons. More and more the police are carrying out follow-up investigations with companies after collisions to ensure that work related road safety is embedded within company policies.
"Companies must make sure they are compliant with health and safety legislation in all areas of their business and understand how far their obligations reach in relation to the welfare of their employees," said Ms Allen. "With company driving in mind this not only surrounds the condition and management of the vehicle, but current guidelines on driver working hours. This should always be important, but the Corporate Manslaughter Act should bring a new urgency for businesses to get their health and safety policies in place or risk facing prosecution in the event that they are found to be negligent."