Fleets could fall foul of recent data protection law under driver licence changes, warns LICENCECHECK
“There are just too many unanswered questions at the moment,” said Richard Brown, managing director of licence checking and monitoring company LICENCECHECK. “The elimination of the paper counterpart was intended to remove red tape but, at the moment, the tight deadlines and practical difficulties of managing such change is adding to fleet managers’ woes – as if they didn’t have enough to think about already.”
Under the recently enabled Section 56 of the Data Protection Act 1998, employers are prohibited from forcing workers to supply ‘Subject Access Reports’ containing information on criminal history and investigations conducted by the police and authorities. Such information, if required, must now be obtained through agencies set up for criminal record checks. The change in law is intended to prevent discrimination surrounding elements such as spent convictions that could be seen on a Subject Access Report.
However, recent concerns raised by fleet operator organisation ACFO queried whether requiring employee drivers to sign a mandate allowing access to their driving licence record could amount to an offence under Section 56(1).
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has clarified that this will not be an offence provided the DVLA’s recommended procedures are followed.
Richard Brown continued: “It seems that for the driver’s consent to be effective they need to understand why the information is being requested by the employer, what it will be used for and the possible consequences. Will a busy fleet manager understand the need to carefully explain all this to the driver in these terms and at this level of detail?”
The company also said this issue may also have wider implications for other motorists, including individuals who wish to hire a car, insure a car or even volunteer drivers. Currently they are typically required to produce their licence counterpart. However, in the future, when the DVLA records are the only source of data, if such people are required to sign a mandate for a DVLA check, the organisation requiring them to do so could fall foul of Section 56(2) which makes it an offence for anyone providing goods, services or facilities to make a person supply or produce a “relevant record” as a condition of providing that service.
“After all, they are being required to agree to a disclosure of endorsements and points as a condition of hiring the car,” explained Brown. “The ICO didn’t make reference to this offence in the statement to ACFO so questions remain about its interpretation and enforcement. While it is highly unlikely that an organisation following standard industry practice will be deemed to have committed an offence, in the absence of guidance, the boundaries remain unclear.”
For a response from the ICO, click here.