Date: 07 September 2020
With so many of us working from home, the personal car parked on the driveway outside has probably never looked so appealing: it doesn’t have anyone else using it, it keeps you socially distanced and it’s right by your front door.
But the risks and issues around using that grey fleet car for business trips have not gone away. In fact, they’re more acute than ever.
Many employees who previously commuted to work by public transport, and used an on-site car club, rental car or taxi for business journeys that started from the office, may now plan to use their own vehicle instead.
This presents a raft of challenges for the employer. Do they have business-use insurance? Many policies exclude this and employees who have never needed it before may not be aware that they aren’t covered for business travel. Some policies even exclude the commute, which employees used to public transport may not realise.
While the FinancialConductAuthority is advising insurance companies not to reject claims by drivers who’ve needed to use a vehicle because of a sudden change in circumstance due to Covid-19, this is not a guarantee.
Vehicle maintenance is another key consideration. Has the driver kept their car suitably maintained and fit for purpose? Are they one of those who opted to buy a second-hand vehicle for work, or did they defer the MOT? MOTs have a huge backlog and will take several months to sort through.
Is their journey an essential business trip – and can the business track how and when they’re travelling and where they’re going before the trip takes place? Employees new to grey fleet may not realise that these are issues to think about, and that may have risk and duty of care implications for their employer.
Working from home may also change what constitutes ‘business travel’ if the employee’s designated place of work changes. If someone now works primarily from home, a trip to the office might now be considered a business journey rather than a commute. Even a short drive from home to buy stationery could be considered a business trip.
The main reasons that employees might choose their own car for a work journey right now are convenience and safety. Tools and software to monitor that behaviour, and guide employees to make safe and convenient choices, can enable employers to understand their decisions, provide alternatives and ensure employees feel supported at a difficult time.
Adrian Bewley is assistant vice president of business mobility for Europe at Enterprise Rent-A-Car