Workplace culture may have changed over recent decades but it has had an absolute bolt from the blue to adapt to, courtesy of Covid-19. Employee well-being has raced up the agenda for businesses which are having to deal with changed and challenging times. But this has to be balanced against providing a safe working environment.
Working from home has become de rigeur for many but it’s simply not an option for key worker drivers. Many have childcare issues to deal with and sometimes the only solution is to bring a child to work. For the transport and logistics sector, dealing with requests from employees who need to bring a child to work, has moved from largely a straight “no” to a “well maybe we have to be as flexible as possible”.
We need to look at this in two ways:
- Risk issues in the workplace
- Understanding how big a problem driving is
Risk Issues in the workplace
There is no statutory right for an employee to bring their child into work. Employers are not legally obliged to allow employees’ children onto their premises.
That said, it is down to each individual employer to decide if their staff can bring their children to work. Some workplaces, of course, will be more suitable for children but there are also those that are less accommodating and some where the workplace is downright dangerous. Many employers state that there are health and safety issues or liability insurance problems. Allowing children into the workplace, where they may be killed and injured is something most would not contemplate.
Let’s be clear about insurance. There is no legal issue. Commercial Motor policies refer to the Insured Person and this includes passengers regardless of age. Passengers would be indemnified where liability arises out of an incident caused by, or in connection with, a vehicle being used for business purposes. There is a difference between passengers and employees. An employee is working in the course of their employment and any injury would not be covered under a motor policy but by Employers Liability insurance – a compulsory cover.
For the transport and logistics sector the position is one of company policy rather than a legal issue. Many companies will simply state in conditions of employment that the carrying of unauthorised passengers (children or pets!) is not permitted.
There are sound arguments for employer caution. How could we expect children to understand and comply with workplace practices? Commonplace hazards would include: the obvious distraction risk to the driver; the potential to fall from a cab; slips or trips; noise; or even exposure to hazardous goods.
For those employers prepared to accept increased risk exposure then considerations would need to be made for tailored training/closer supervision. They should be in a position to consider what is or is not appropriate. Employers must let the parents or guardians of any child know the possible risks and the measures put in place to control them. This can be done in whatever way is simplest and suitable, including verbally. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, an employer has a responsibility to ensure that individuals are not exposed to risk due to:
- lack of experience
- being unaware of existing or potential risks and/or
- lack of maturity
Prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 could be anticipated where a circumstance arises where you put a child’s safety at risk.
How big a problem is driving?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) claim that 1/3 of all traffic accidents involve a driver in the course of their employment. To put this in context, for 2018 consider these staggering human tragedies:
21 Aviation deaths Source: Department for Transport
6 Tube/Tram deaths Source: Rail Safety & Office of Road and Rail
243 Water deaths Source: National Water Safety
34 Rail deaths Source: Network Rail
726 Homeless deaths Source: ONS
810 Homicide deaths Source: ONS, PSNI, Gov.scot
1840 in total
1837 Road deaths Source: PACTS
So deaths on the road accounted for almost half of total accidental deaths in 2018. According to a new report from the European Transport Safety Council, there were 1926 deaths on the road in the UK in 2019 – this is worse than 2010.
5 People every day are killed on UK Roads, 30% are work related
Driving is a dangerous occupation. With good reason, many observers point towards driving as the most risky thing a human can do. With this in mind it is highly unlikely that transport companies will do anything other than occasionally allow children to accompany employees to work and only then in exceptional circumstances. The statistics above are a sobering reminder that every effort should be taken to reduce risk factors as much as possible.
Steve Green ACII Chartered Insurance Broker
Steve Green Consultancy Ltd