Cycling whilst at work - legal position

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ericonabike
Posts: 330
Joined: 24 Apr 2008, 4:05pm

Cycling whilst at work - legal position

Postby ericonabike » 24 Apr 2008, 4:14pm

Hi - new member posting.

We had a query on our Bicycle User Group forum at work that I couldn't answer. Namely:

What's the insurance position when you're using a bike for a work journey?

From previous work knowledge, I'm aware that you're officially 'at work' whilst travelling from one office to another, presumably by any mode of transport! But are there any insurance issues? We have a Bike to Work scheme and are introducing a mileage rate for cyclists.

All contributions welcomed!

gilesjuk
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Joined: 17 Mar 2008, 10:10pm

Postby gilesjuk » 24 Apr 2008, 5:26pm

I would imagine it is up to the company policy. When the company supplies a company car then you don't take out the insurance. Same for a bike, except cycle insurance isn't required.

You can claim something like 12p a mile for cycling to a customer site.

byegad
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Joined: 3 Sep 2007, 9:44am

Postby byegad » 24 Apr 2008, 10:31pm

I think cycling round the office would be dangerous! Also a recumbent might be seen as sleeping on the job!

drossall
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Location: North Hertfordshire

Postby drossall » 24 Apr 2008, 10:45pm

What insurance are you looking for?

For example, your bike may be covered against theft by your household policy. It could even be covered against accidental damage in crashes (mine was, somewhat to my surprise).

If you're thinking of your personal liability if you cause injury/damage to someone else, do any of your policies provide this?

Then, the question is whether those policies extend to business use. You'd have to check the policy or ask your insurer. They routinely exclude business use of cars from many motor policies of course, but I'm not so sure whether business use of your other property is excluded from a household policy that would otherwise cover it. What if you dropped a camera at an office party, for example?

It seems to me unlikely that anyone will have thought to exclude business use of bikes specifically, unless they also do the same for cameras and so on.

Or is your question whether the employer is legally required to provide any special insurance, or has any liability if the employee causes an accident while cycling for work? I can't see this, as you remain personally responsible for your actions, surely. If a lorry kills someone, it's the driver who ends up before the courts, even if the employer provided the insurance.

But I'm no legal eagle. Others may know better.

Tom Richardson
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Joined: 25 Jun 2007, 1:45pm

Postby Tom Richardson » 25 Apr 2008, 10:04am

There is no compulsory requirement for specific cycle insurance to use a bike for a work journey. Unlike a motor vehicle, where there is a specific legal requirement for insurance, for cycles there isn't so you don't have to have it.

Except that:
Employers are required to maintain Employers Liability insurance to cover the risk to employees arising out of their employment. Statutory Employers Liability Insurance specifically excludes the use of motor vehicles, (which must be covered by other insurance) and may have other exclusions for which your employer may need to take out further cover. So ask whoever deals with your firms insurance to check with the insurer or broker if your employers liability insurance excludes the use of cycles for business travel whilst at work. If it does your employer may have to add it.

(I would be very surprised if an insurer excluded cycling from their EL cover unless you have an unusually high rate of cycle use).

and:
employers will usually maintain public liability insurance to cover damage to others arising from their activities. Unless specifically arranged to include it I wouldn't expect this to cover injury to third parties or their property arising from cycling whilst at work.

If you cause damage or injury while cycling at work leading to claim against you you're likely to be on your own so you ought to take out 3rd party cover. That’s part of what the mileage rates that employers pay is intended to pay for.

I don't think that it would be unreasonable for an employer to insist on you taking out third party cover before allowing you to use a cycle for work.

Speshact
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Joined: 31 Oct 2007, 11:35pm

Postby Speshact » 25 Apr 2008, 11:24am

An interesting question here is whether the employee is being expected by the employer to ride a bike for work purposes or wishes to themselves.

Under Health and Safety legislation employers have a duty to undertake risk assessments of their activities to determine the likelihood (very likely down to most unlikely) and probable consequence (death down to property damage) of their activities in respect of staff, customers etc.
The risk assessment should identify risk control measures that are reasonably practicable to implement (eg guard on bench saw) and ensure that they are implemented.

The risk assessment may also highlight safer alternative methods of undertaking work (eg avoiding need for saw at all through buying in pre-cut parts).

Putting yourself in the position of an employee (and not a keen cyclist)being required to ride a bike at work you would probably perceive the risk as quite high and want to be provided with a suitable, well-serviced bicycle; training in how to use it in the conditions you will be expected to and relevant legislation; personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of lights, reflective clothing, wet weather clothing, helmet; means of securing help if there's an accident/incident eg mobile phone etc.

Equally there's a chance an employer will refuse to allow someone wishing to cycle in the course of their work from doing so because they perceive the risk to be too high and ensuring/implementing control measures to be too onerous. They may prefer their employee to walk/use public transport/use a company car.

Should you wish to cycle in the course of your duties then you may need to help your company be confident in letting you - eg through drafting a risk assessment showing it's acceptably safe (including positive benefits such as improving fitness) and working out how to make control measures reasonably practicable to implement easily (eg suggesting providing your own serviced bike, helmet, lights etc. etc. - having said which you should obviously first consider whether you can get your employer to provide all of this)

You should also bear in mind that some control measures you choose not to implement as a leisure/commuting cyclist, or that you personally disagree with, may be required by an employer (eg wearing a helmet). If the company's risk assessment leads them to require you to wear a helmet and you don't, then I believe this may affect any claim you make should wearing a helmet be judged to have been something that may have limited the severity of the damage received - Employers Liability Insurance is insurance by employers in respect of THEIR LIABILITY to employees for injury or disease arising out of and in the course of their employment.

(Please note these are my thoughts/understanding but I'm not an H&S officer/Insurance expert though I've done my fair share of risk assessments!)

thirdcrank
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Postby thirdcrank » 25 Apr 2008, 11:29am

Do employers do a risk assessment before letting people drive cars in connection with their work?* :?:



*clue - do they require them to wear helmets when driving :?:

Speshact
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Joined: 31 Oct 2007, 11:35pm

Postby Speshact » 25 Apr 2008, 11:36am

Some do, some don't - but they should in law:
http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/ac ... 1074411826

I believe there are cultural differences that seem to influence 'reasonably practicable' - I've seen many bus drivers and lorry drivers wearing hi-vis while driving (not I suspect of their own choice) but I've never seen a chauffeur wearing it.....

Tom Richardson
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Joined: 25 Jun 2007, 1:45pm

Postby Tom Richardson » 25 Apr 2008, 1:39pm

Those are good points that Speshat makes. A car driver has a licence that demonstrates competence to drive and although that competence may be highly theoretical its accepted in law so its a fair defence if a problem arises. In the same way there are standards for the maintenance of a car, MOT tests etc. that can be used to demonstrate the control of risk. There aren't any of these things for bikes so its harder for an employer to cover the risk.

An employer could argue that because the law doesn't require these things for cyclists that they don't ask for them but when the boss is up in front of the beak because their cycling employee has knocked someone over I bet they'll feel vulnerable.

I'd be inclined to cover it with a 6mthly bike check (or maybe a random bike check in case people use different ones) and a preliminary bike competence test. (We used to make regular car drivers take a competence test in the firms van before we let them drive it on their own so I don't think that approach is biased against cyclists)

thirdcrank
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Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Postby thirdcrank » 25 Apr 2008, 1:49pm

I am a strong supporter of health and safety at work but there has to be a sense of proportion. How on earth does an employer test the competence of a cyclist? If an untested cyclist cannot safely be allowed out loose on the streets, where do we stand on walking? OK for the walker accredited to NVQ level Two in pedestrianism but if the apprentice has to nip down to the shops for the sandwich order, must be accompanied by an accredited supervisor? :shock:

Halit Osis wrote:Image
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Tom Richardson
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Joined: 25 Jun 2007, 1:45pm

Postby Tom Richardson » 25 Apr 2008, 4:10pm

thirdcrank wrote:I am a strong supporter of health and safety at work but there has to be a sense of proportion. How on earth does an employer test the competence of a cyclist? If an untested cyclist cannot safely be allowed out loose on the streets, where do we stand on walking? OK for the walker accredited to NVQ level Two in pedestrianism but if the apprentice has to nip down to the shops for the sandwich order, must be accompanied by an accredited supervisor? :shock:



you test the competence of a cyclist by making them cycle round the block and either following them on your bike or else watch them as best you can, then you put a note on file to show that youve done it and they were ok so you can pull it out if you ever need to show that you've covered the risks.

That only applies to business use that people are being paid expenses for. If the apprentice goes to the shops its his own journey and his own look out unless its authorised business travel that he's being paid for.

You don't have to do this but its the old story - it won't make cycling safer but the employers botton will be covered when there's trouble.

basingstoke123
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Joined: 13 Feb 2008, 10:05pm

Postby basingstoke123 » 25 Apr 2008, 8:18pm

Do employers do a risk assessment before letting people drive cars in connection with their work?


My company appears to! It has numberous procedures relating to driving, company cars etc.

I had to use my car this week for work (very rare), so I though I would just double check with HR that I would be covered by the company for business use (always used to). HR did not know (no surprise). Eventually spoke to someone who did know. Was very surprised to discover the offical (but not published) position was you should hire a car, not use your own car. However, due to the lack of time now to get a hire car, I would be covered provided I confirmed by email that I had up to date MOT, tax and service.

ericonabike
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Joined: 24 Apr 2008, 4:05pm

Postby ericonabike » 30 Apr 2008, 5:54pm

Thanks all for the contributions - apologies for going AWOL for a time. I find myself in a bit of a quandary after reading them - do I want to be treated as a pedestrian or as a vehicle user? We don't expect any evidence of competency if an employee walks to another office. But we do of car drivers - there are regular risk assessments at the company I work for.

I am so reluctant to do anything that might further the image of cycling as a dangerous pursuit. I want people to be able to hop on a bike and pedal off, as happens in other countries, without having to don protective/reflective gear, produce certificates of competence and roadworthiness etc.

My instinct at the moment is to let the status quo continue. A number of us use bikes to get to other workplaces [folding bikes on trains in particular] and as yet no restrictions have been imposed. Quite the reverse - we are in the Bike to work scheme, mileage will shortly be paid for business use and cycle facilities at our offices are being uprated. I fear that if I raise the insurance issue with my HR department it will open up this can of worms, with the end result that cycle use reduces....

nortones2
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Postby nortones2 » 30 Apr 2008, 8:17pm

Despite stats based on distance travelled/KSI, there are significant difficulties comparing risk levels: just think of air transport. An hours travel gets one 500 miles, but the majority of the risk occurs in the first mile and the last mile. So, if the rates are compared, should the air deaths relate to a travel distance of 2 miles. plus a fudge factor for the intervening 3000? In reality cycling is low risk, and driving may be higher! But there are no firm stats on this because the parameters (deaths per 100,000 miles) etc are not really comparable.