Lynne Higginbottom, bursar at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, explains why the distinction between ‘business use’ and ‘occasional business use’ is so important for school staff’s insurance
For most school business managers the concept of paying regular travel expenses to members of staff may not be something that is given a great deal of thought; the majority of travel claimed by members of staff would usually be in connection with attendance at a training event or a specific ad hoc meeting. However, larger schools and academy trusts may have staff who are required to travel between different academies, or between sites if the school operates a separate high school and sixth form with relevant travelling distance in-between.
I was recently involved in a discussion with colleagues as to why I was checking that staff members had ‘business use’ in addition to social, domestic and pleasure included within their own personal car insurance policies. The point was raised that schools have an occasional business use (OBU) policy – so, why was this personal insurance category required when the OBU policy would cover their staff?
Distinguishing the two
I felt that there was some confusion in relation to the differences between occasional business use and regular travelling expenses; with this in mind, I felt that it would be worth putting pen to paper to raise awareness for colleagues, if and when they’re faced with deciding whether the occasional business use travel insurance policy should be used in conjunction with school business.
For example, we have two separate sites to our school – the high school is three quarters of a mile away from the sixth form centre, and some of our teaching staff who teach Key Stage 3 and 4 have to travel between sites. Members of the senior leadership team also travel and work between school sites, including myself. We have a section within our school staff handbook covering travel between the school sites which states that the school will reimburse staff members for their travelling expenses between the two sites; however, in order for them to claim business travel, they must ensure that they have ‘business use’ on their own personal insurance.
Regular travelling as a consequence of work – including between school sites – is classed as business travel; therefore, if you have your own car insurance which states ‘social, domestic and pleasure only’, and does not include ‘business use’, you may find that, should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident whilst you are travelling on regular school business, your insurance company may not cover your claim. I will add, at this point, that the vast majority of insurance companies don’t charge an additional fee for business use, so it is worth checking with your insurance company.
The above is in direct reference to regular business travel and is not to be confused with ‘occasional business use’. Occasional business use is exactly that – occasional. An example I would use to determine ‘occasional’ would be to think how often your trustees or school governors would use their own vehicles for school business. This would usually be, for them, to attend a meeting or a training session relating to school. If a member of staff has a CPD session which they attend every year, this is ‘occasional’ and there would be no need for them to have ‘business use’ on their personal insurance. However, if you have a member of staff attending an event every week on behalf of the school, I would be concerned that this would not be deemed as ‘occasional business use’. I recommend that, if you have instances like this, you check your policy or insurance provider for clarification.
I find it good practice, at the start of every academic year, to ask staff members to provide a copy of their personal insurance showing that they have ‘business use’ on their policies. Make sure the staff understand the importance of this and that they are aware that, if they wish to claim regular travelling expenses from the school, they need to ensure that they are adequately covered with ‘business use’ on their insurance policies.
In simple terms: no business use, no payment!