Home / Insights / Blog / Bus Firm Calls For Review of Age Discrimination Laws After Fatal Crash

Bus Firm Calls For Review of Age Discrimination Laws After Fatal Crash

Bus Firm Calls For Review of Age Discrimination Laws After Fatal Crash

elderly discrimination laws

Bus operator Midland Red (South) has called for a review of age discrimination laws after a 77-year-old driver for the company killed two people in an accident.

The company – which is part of the Stagecoach Group – was fined £2.3m for ignoring warning signs that Kailash Chander was not safe to drive. Mr. Chander, now 80, lost control of his bus in Coventry city centre and careered into a supermarket in October 2015, killing a 7-year-old passenger and a 76-year-old pedestrian.

Medical experts found that he was suffering from undiagnosed dementia at the time.

Speaking on behalf of Midland Red (South) after the court ruling, managing director Phil Medlicott said:

“We support a review of how current age discrimination law impacts specific roles. This includes whether there should be a statutory legal age limit for drivers of buses.”

Mr Chander, a former mayor of Leamington Spa, was placed under a two-year supervision order by a judge in Birmingham Crown Court, after he was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial.

Company fined £2.3m, breached health and safety laws

Midland Red (South)’s penalty comes after the company previously pleaded guilty to two offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act in relation to the case. The court found that the bus firm had allowed their employee to continue to work long hours despite multiple signs that this was not safe.

The judge noted that there were repeated warnings that Mr. Chander’s driving was “erratic” from passenger complaints, company advisors and the firm’s telematic system, but that these were ignored due to “staff shortages.”

Amongst the warning signs was the fact that the driver had been involved in four less serious crashes over a three year period. In April 2015, Midland Red received a recommendation from their own driving assessor that Mr. Chander should not be working long hours. At the time of the fatal crash, Mr. Chander had worked six days in a row and completed three consecutive weeks of 75-hour shifts.

Just two days prior to the accident, a manager had suggested that Mr. Chander’s contract should be ended, but no action was taken to stop him continuing with his shifts.

The court heard that the elderly driver had appeared “fatigued,” with another driver describing him as looking “knackered” on the day of the accident. CCTV footage of the incident shows the driver rubbing his eyes just before the crash.

Firm seeks employment age limit for high-risk jobs

Whilst accepting responsibility for the “terrible tragedy” and admitting “a number of failings” on its part at an operational level, Midlands Red says that it has completed a “comprehensive review of all [company] policies” following the accident and made “several key changes” as a result.

The firm maintains however that its safety regime is “significantly more robust” than required by law, with “more frequent medical testing and a pre-medical review for older drivers.”

The company says that it carries out relevant safety checks every six months, rather than once a year as is required by law. It is therefore calling for legislators to strengthen the ability of employers to limit the maximum age of workers in certain, safety-sensitive roles such as operating large vehicles.

Under the Equality Act, it is illegal for companies to terminate employees’ contracts on the basis of their age, rather than lack of physical or mental capacity.

Large vehicle drivers over the age of 65 are however also legally not allowed to work more than ten hours a day — whilst Mr. Chander regularly worked 75 hour weekly shifts. Statistics from the DVLA show that 7,110 bus licences were held by people over the age of 70 as of July this year.

Expert employment law advice for employers

Find out how we can protect your business and your reputation as a fair employer by calling us on 03456 381381. Alternatively email your details to employment@ibblaw.co.uk.