Company Vehicles- A ticket to ride? Employment law

In this article we turn our attention to the more usual day to day activities of a HR department and seek to highlight a recent case that show how easy it could be to fall foul of the law when seeking to dismiss an employee.

Background

Two employees were provided a company van in which they would perform property repairs by the Employer. The Employer’s policy on use of the company van was that they must not be used ‘under any circumstances’ for private use other than for ordinary commuting. This policy also warned staff that unauthorised use of a company policy will be deemed to be gross misconduct and may result in dismissal.

The company vehicles were fitted with tracking devices and following an anonymous complaint a review of the tracker information was made. On consideration of this data it was discovered that the first employee had, on multiple occasions, visited his mother’s house which was on his route home. The second employee had also taken the van to watch his son play football on multiple occasions while on call.

At tribunal the first employee argued that it was on his way home and explained that his dad had recently died and that was why he was visiting his mother. The second employee stated that most of the workforce did ‘stuff’ on the way home and maintained he was told he could use the van for personal use.

Tribunal findings

The tribunal found that the employee’s were unfairly dismissed and the policy around the use of company vans was unclear and provided no explanation of what constituted ‘private’ and ‘business’ use. When combined with the length of service and clear disciplinary records of each employee, a failure to properly investigate on the part of the employer, the dismissal was deemed unfair.

Points to consider

i) Ensure policies as to what is right and wrong in relation to company vehicle use are well drafted and employees understand exactly what it is that they must not do;

ii) Ensure that there is a full investigation of the matter and consider employees previous disciplinary record and length of service. Is, after considering this, the decision to dismiss is within the reasonable band of responses?

This case is a timely reminder of the need to think carefully before dismissing an employee and to take good advice.

For advice please contact James Monk, Senior Associate Solicitor, Thursfields Solicitors – jmonk@thursfields.co.uk or 0121 227 3366

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