Furloughing a Transport Manager - When is it ok?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available for use when a business cannot maintain its current workforce because its operations have been severely affected by COVID-19. In these circumstances, businesses can furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month.
But what about a Transport Manager?
An operator licence holder has a responsibility to ensure that:
- a properly qualified and experienced transport manager is appointed;
- the transport manager effectively and continuously manages the transport activities of the undertaking;
- the transport manager has a genuine link to the undertaking expressed in either a formal contract of employment or a contract for services; and
- sufficient time is allowed in relation to the number of vehicles operated for the proper performance of the duties of the transport manager and that additional assistance is provided when indicated.
When considering the non-exhaustive list above, some fleets of vehicles are currently grounded in their entirety, some operators are working at a decreased capacity and for others it is business as usual. The number of scenarios that operators are currently facing has led the Senior Traffic Commissioner to release further guidance surrounding the furloughing of Transport Managers and how operators should approach it.
What is important to note is that there is no hard and fast rule and that the traffic commissioners will consider each case on its own merit. The Senior Traffic Commissioner has helpfully set out the following positions for traffic commissioners to consider in relation to furloughing of Transport Managers, which can be viewed here >
- "If an operator has temporarily laid up the whole fleet of licensed vehicles, the Transport Manager will not be required to exercise continuous and effective management of an undertaking which is not in operation. It is likely that the traffic commissioner would consider that there continues to be a genuine link between the operator and Transport Manager, who must be re-engaged before operations recommence. The traffic commissioner would not normally expect to be advised of that change.
- If an operator reduces their overall operation and some Transport Managers are furloughed (as may occur with some larger operations who have several Transport Managers) the operator and/or the Transport Manager(s) must advise the Office of the Traffic Commissioner by email providing details of the arrangements. The Traffic Commissioner may require additional information.
- If an operator continues to operate and attempts to furlough the only Transport Manager, the Office of the Traffic Commissioner must be advised immediately. There is a mandatory and continuing requirement for professional competence on all standard licences. In order to continue operating that standard operator must make an application for a Period of Grace or seek a temporary exemption, in order to continue operating without a Transport Manager. The Contingency Statutory Document already refers to the approach, which might be taken by the Traffic Commissioner".
If you are considering furloughing a Transport Manager and wish to seek further legal advice as to compliance with your operator licence conditions, please contact Vikki Woodfine or Joanne Witheford.