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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003

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EMPLOYERS RISK MOBILE MAYHEM
LAW FIRM, Glaisyers, is warning UK employers to revise their mobile phone policies in line with legislative changes or risk strict penalties. 

The warning comes in the run up to changes to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, which come into force on 1st  December this year and will make it illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving.

Employers could be found in breach of section 110(2) of the regulations unless they ensure that employees are equipped with suitable mobile phone equipment and are aware of the new rules. 

Those in breach of the regulations will face a 30 fixed-penalty or a fine of up to 1,000 if the case is then taken to court.  It is however intended that the fixed penalty will in the future be raised to 60 plus 3 penalty points.  Drivers of goods or passenger-carrying vehicles will face fines of up to 2,500.

Mobile phones fitted with hands-free kits will still be legal, but these must meet specific criteria.

Russell Brown, Employment Solicitor at Glaisyers, Manchester, resolves some of the questions surrounding the new legislation:
"A hands free mobile phone kit is one which requires no contact with the user.  According to guidance with the Lancashire Constabulary, the kit should have fixed internal speakers. Bluetooth accessories will also be allowed.  This doesn't however include mobile phones with earpieces or cradles that still need to be operated manually.

"Basically, this means that holding or handling a mobile phone will be illegal.  As long as the engine is still running the new regulations will apply, even if the vehicle is stationary.  To avoid committing an offence under this section, a driver will need to have parked and switched the engine off before using the phone.

"One grey area that still exists relates to pushing the buttons of the phone whilst it is in its cradle.  While this won't be prohibited, the law does state that, in carrying out the operation, the driver is not in full control.  It is therefore safe to assume that buttons should only be pressed when driving in order to accept, reject or end calls

"Providing employees with mobile phones will not be an offence, but forcing them to make or receive calls whilst driving will.  Employers must make their employees aware of the new rules and update disciplinary policies to make it a disciplinary offence to use a mobile telephone whilst driving, thus avoiding liability."