One mistake in most jobs may not have major repercussions. But one mistake behind the wheel can cause a professional driver to become disqualified from driving.
It is up to a court to decide for how long a driver will be disqualified, taking into account the gravity of the offence. Irrespective of whether it happened on the job or outside of working hours, this will have an impact on their ability to perform their job.
Can an employer automatically dismiss the employee for being disqualified?
No! Even if an employee drives as part of their role, this will not, in the eyes of the law, be an automatically fair reason for dismissal.
For a dismissal to be considered fair, the employer must show that the reason for the dismissal was related to an employee’s conduct, capability, due to redundancy, a statutory restriction that prevents employment continuing or for some other substantial reason.
If the employee has been disqualified from driving, the employer could argue that the reason for the dismissal was a “statutory restriction” that prevents the employment continuing. In other words, it would be unlawful for the employer to continue employing the driver to fulfil their normal work duties as it is against the law to drive without a valid driving licence.
Additionally, employees who drive significantly as part of the role may have a term in their employment contract that states that they must hold a valid UK driving licence. If they lose their licence, the employee is violating the terms of their employment contract and this can give cause for dismissal.
However, it is not enough that the employer has a valid reason – you must have acted reasonably in the circumstances in treating it as a sufficient reason for dismissing the employee. This means that before you take any action, you should consider:
- How long is the disqualification for?
- Are there options for redeployment within the organisation? Could you adjust their duties so they can continue to work in a non-driving role such as in an office or warehouse?
A failure to consider any alternatives could actually render the dismissal unfair.
If, after careful thought, there are no other possible options, it may be possible to terminate the employee’s contract of employment. Before you do this, always seek Employment Law Advice from your Ellis Whittam Employment Law Adviser.
What if the employee has not been convicted?
After committing an offence, an employee may be charged and need to wait for a hearing to decide how long the court will disqualify them.
In these cases, you may naturally be concerned about the damage the employee’s acts may have on your business’ reputation – however, it is necessary to have some evidence to show that there is an actual risk to reputation. In some clear cut cases, the nature of the driving offence will mean disqualification is mandatory (i.e. driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit), but in others, it may not be so.
Making a decision based on these unknowns can lead to problems. You should always seek advice from your Employment Adviser before taking any action.