£60 fine for going into work without need ‘there to protect workers not punish them’ says Mark Drakeford
A £60 fine for going into work without need is there to protect workers not punish them, the First Minister has said.
Mark Drakeford said that he wanted to “lay to rest” a story he said was “without substance”.
The Welsh Government had amended legislation to make attending a workplace unnecessarily a criminal offence, amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
The amended legislation states that “no person may leave the place where they are living, or remain away from that place, for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services” when it is “reasonably practicable” to do so from home.
It adds that anyone who contravenes this rule “commits an offence” punishable by a fine of £60.
But Mark Drakeford said that they were the same rules that existed earlier in the pandemic and that he thanked unions for their help in ensuring that the intention of the regulations was being communicated.
“The rule is there to protect workers not penalise them,” he said. “No fines were issued at all when these rules were previously in place.
“They’re there to make sure that if a worker feels that an employer is unreasonable they can point to regulations and say they are committing an offence to do so. It is to protect workers not to penalise them.
“They worked very well then, they will work very well again.”
Trade unions such as the GMB and TUC had both previously criticised the move which would see workers receive a £60 fixed penalty notice for breaking the work from home rule.
Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj said her reaction was one of “shock and concern”.
“A worker is not responsible for their place of work, their employer is,” she said. “This sets a really worrying precedent that the responsibility is somehow shared, and is at best naïve.”
Meanwhile GMB Senior organiser Kelly Andrews said it “strikes the wrong chord”.
“We have major worries that this could lead to bad employers pressuring their workers to work from home without a paper trail and place any financial risk on them,” she said.
“Those workers are also the most vulnerable and can least afford to take the financial hit. But the truth is for a lot of families a £60 fine over Christmas will have a severe financial impact.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson had previously defended the rule, saying that the additional measures were introduced “to limit the spread of the virus and protect public health”.
“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,” they said.
“We expect employers to take all reasonable steps to facilitate home working and provide employees with the support they need.”