HR · 17 August 2015

The key micro business employment law changes for 2015: Part two

New drug driving regulations could be of interest to you if you employ drivers for your business
New drug driving regulations could be of interest to you if you employ drivers for your business

In the first section of this guide to changes in employment law, the raft of new family-friendly legislation was covered as well as changes to the tribunal process. This second part will address other important changes that could affect you and your business – including redundancy and holiday pay.

To start with, one to bear in mind if you employ drivers is the Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (England and Wales) Regulations 2014 that came into force on 2 March 2015. The regulations have a significant impact on employers who employ staff whose duties include driving.

In brief, the regulations bring the law against drug driving in line with the law against drunk driving, and as an employer you do need to take proactive steps to minimise your employees breaching these regulations.

If you do not already do so, I would recommend that you should consider introducing back to work interviews after every period of sickness absence to ascertain if your employee is taking any medication that may impact on their ability to drive. You should also consider ensuring drivers understand their responsibilities and where possible carry out spot checks. I would also recommend your drivers’ procedure within your employee handbook reflects these changes. And finally, it would also be prudent to liaise with your insurers to obtain their sign off on the policies to ensure coverage.

Often a zero-tolerance approach to any breaches is recommended. Make sure measures are in place within the workplace to ensure compliance, including considering any alleged breach as a potential gross misconduct issue within your disciplinary procedure.

The new regulations will be supported by new and more accurate road side drug testing kits which can assess drug traces from a saliva swab. Penalties for individuals who commit offences under these new regulations range from a one year driving disqualification and fines of up to £5,000, to a prison sentence. If a driver can show that the drugs were taken in line with directions given by the person who prescribed the drug, or as per instructions supplied, this may be considered a defence.

As a final note, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that employer’s responsibility could extend to corporate manslaughter if an employee, who is subsequently found to have had drugs in their system, is killed or kills another on the road whilst carrying out their work. Therefore you need to ensure you have procedures in place to manage this risk.

Finally, the DVLA/senior traffic commissioner has recently announced a crackdown on the use of mobile phones by HGV drivers whilst driving. Penalties will range from £100-£2,500 fine and three penalty points to disqualification. Employers should be aware they too can be prosecuted if they ask, or permit, their employees to make or receive telephone calls while driving. I have certainly seen as part of an accident investigation, phone records accessed by the police to ascertain if the driver was on the phone at the time of the accident.

The guidance published by the senior traffic commissioner also states the starting point for a LGV driver using a mobile phone while driving will be immediate suspension of the driver’s vocational driving entitlement for 21 days. The suspension period is multiplied by the number of offences committed, so if for example it is their third offence, the driver will be suspended for 63 days.

So what do you do if your driver cannot drive? Obviously you cannot allow them to do so anyway, but what do you do if they cannot carry out the duties you pay them for? You can dismiss an employee if continuing to employ them would break the law, but there is not a duty for you to dismiss and doesn’t give you a clear cut right to do, so you must follow a fair procedure. If this would impact on your business then it is important that you ensure that the policies within your handbook reflect these changes to enable you to manage this potential risk to your business.

Statutory rates change

If you need to access the key statutory rates and the changes implemented in April 2015, it is far easier it I just direct you to the update I compiled here.

Read on to find out how changes in law regarding holiday pay and redundancy could affect you.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carole is as a freelance senior HR consultant with over 18 years experience in supporting small businesses. She founded HR Support for Business to provide an affordable, but still professional, outsourced HR Support service for micro and small businesses looking for guidance.

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