Speeding towards trouble: Foreign employees in company cars

Speeding towards trouble: Foreign employees in company cars

Published:

Author: Ron Reid

Employers of foreign nationals who visit the UK for extended periods and who need to drive for work, should be aware of UK requirements for international drivers and their responsibility for employees' health and safety.

Health and safety requirements

As an employer, you must carry out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of your employees, while they are at work, and to other people who may be affected by their work activities. This must be reviewed so that it remains appropriate.

Other than employees commuting to their usual places of work, driving for work purposes is considered to be 'at work', and any risk assessment must address this.

Foreign drivers

If your company has foreign employees who visit the UK and benefit from the use of a company car, or are expected to drive for their work, then any assessment needs to cater for this.

International drivers are often unaccustomed to driving in the UK and employers should ensure that they are thoroughly trained to minimise the risk to their or anyone else's safety whilst driving.

In practical terms, this can involve:

  • driving courses
  • incident reports, to help measure the need for further training
  • making employees aware of the dangers they face when driving
  • a specific company car usage policy

As well as this, employers should check that foreign employees are legally entitled to drive in the UK, which is not always as straightforward as requiring the production of a driving licence.

Typical requirements are:

  • Europe
    Both visitors to the UK and permanent residents can drive any vehicle permitted by their EC/EEA licence until the age of 70.
  • Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South African and Switzerland
    Visitors to the UK can drive any vehicle, up to 3.5 tonnes, on their foreign licence for a period of 12 months from the date they entered the UK. Residents can also drive any vehicle, up to 3.5 tonnes, on their foreign licence for a period of 12 months after becoming permanent residents. However, to continue driving after this period, they must have exchanged their foreign licence for a UK licence, otherwise they will not be legally entitled to drive.
  • All other countries
    Visitors to the UK with a valid driving licence from another country can drive any vehicle, up to 3.5 tonnes, for a period of 12 months from the date they entered the UK. However, to continue driving after 12 months, they must have applied for a provisional UK licence and passed the full UK driving test. Those that have applied for the provisional licence, but not passed the test before the 12 month period has expired, are permitted to drive under provisional licence conditions.

Obligation to inform insurer

Employers should be aware that any road traffic offences committed by foreign drivers whilst using company cars in the UK, should be notified to their insurers in the same way as with UK employees.

To ensure that this can be done, an obligation on employees to report all incidents should be included in any company car policy. Otherwise, the employer risks their insurer refusing to honour their insurance policy.