All change, please – bus driver dismissed for using mobile phone at the wheel
Using a mobile phone while driving can lead to disqualification and a £2,500 fine. As the recent case of Ruparell v East London Bus and Coach Co shows, it can also lead to you losing your job.
Mr Ruparell was a bus driver who joined ELBCC in November 2005. The company had a strict rule that mobile phones could not be present in a driver’s cab, even if a bus was stationary. ELBCC repeatedly reminded its drivers about this rule, both by sending letters and putting up notices.
In April 2014, Mr Ruparell parked his bus (which had no passengers) at the end of a route. He fell asleep in his cab after trying to set an alarm on his mobile phone. He later woke up with a start when his alarm did not go off, and drove away with the phone still in his hand. After reviewing CCTV, ELBCC raised disciplinary proceedings against Mr Ruparell and ultimately dismissed him for gross misconduct.
Mr Ruparell lodged a claim for unfair dismissal, and argued (amongst other things) that dismissal was too harsh a sanction for a first offence. The Employment Tribunal dismissed his claim, however, holding that ELBCC had made clear to its drivers that having a mobile phone in a driver’s cab was serious misconduct.
The case is a good reminder of how important it can be to effectively communicate workplace rules to employees. Particularly when an important new rule or policy is being introduced, it can often be helpful to require employees to sign a copy to confirm that they are aware of it.
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