Workers in Wales could be issued with a £60 (€70) fine for traveling to their place of work “without good reason,” under new coronavirus regulations to be introduced on Monday.
The Labour-run Welsh government confirmed that those who can work from home but choose not to unnecessarily will be personally liable for the fixed penalty notice, with employers who flout the rules being hit with fines of £1,000 for each transgression, up to a maximum of £10,000. At the same time, the Welsh are still allowed to leave their home to go to restaurants and pubs.
“Additional measures have been introduced to limit the spread of the virus and protect public health,” said a Welsh government spokesman.
“Further to our long-standing advice for people to work from home wherever possible, from Monday this will now be a legal requirement to work from home unless there is a reasonable excuse not to.
“We expect employers to take all reasonable steps to facilitate home working and provide employees with the support they need.”
The draconian measures are being introduced by the devolved government in Wales and will not be applicable to the rest of the United Kingdom.
The move has infuriated bosses at some of the country’s largest trade unions, with Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj describing it as “at best naive.”
“A worker is not responsible for their place of work, their employer is,” explained Taj, adding the new regulations set a “really worrying precedent that the responsibility is somehow shared.”
The GMB union warned that the measures “strike the wrong chord,” stressing that they will impact the “most vulnerable” workers who can “least afford to take the financial hit.”
Critics of the measures have highlighted that under the rules due to be introduced, people residing in Wales will still legally be allowed to visit pubs, shops and restaurants without risking the same financial penalty.
Conservative MP for Clwyd West, David Jones, expressed concern over the “lack of clarity in this position,” calling for more guidance to be given to help workers determine when it might be reasonable for them to travel to their place of work.
“If clarity is not provided, many workers may be deterred from working at all, for fear of having a fine accompanied by a criminal record,” Jones added.
First Minister Mark Drakeford also hinted that there may be further restrictions on the horizon, including limiting the number of households allowed to meet at one time.