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Seven in ten small businesses plan to impose a blanket ban on staff using mobile phones for business purposes while driving, according to new research.

The survey, conducted by vehicle management firm FleetLine, found that half of those quizzed said that they would even try to ban employees from using their mobiles while driving in their leisure time.

It has been illegal since December to use a mobile phone (unless it's hands-free) while driving, with the government promising £1,000 fines for those who ignore the ban.

Small haulage firms could be hardest hit by the legislation, with drivers of vans and lorries facing a £2,500 if they continue to use their mobiles.

Significantly, businesses which encourage staff to use mobiles without a hands-free kit while driving will also be liable to prosecution.

However, the police are expected to impose a ‘period of grace’ until February so drivers can get used to the new rules.

The FleetLine study found that 95 per cent of respondents were aware of the new rules and supported them, but 20 per cent of small firms admitted to having no policy on the use of mobile phones while driving on business.

Many small businesses feel that imposing a blanket ban will avoid any confusion over grey areas in the legislation, according David Harnett, director of FleetLine.

“It’s important that businesses provide clear and explicit guidance to their employees in the form of a policy that is widely communicated.

“It should be made clear that drivers who choose to make or receive calls against the policies will be subject to the normal police investigation processes and be subject to disciplinary action,” he said.

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