Plaid Cymru call for Welsh Gov to scrap £60 fine for not working from home
Plaid Cymru have called for the ‘failure to work from home’ offence to be scrapped.
The party’s spokesperson for the economy, Luke Fletcher MS, has taken aim at the Welsh Government after it brought in Covid-19 regulations on that could see employees fined £60 for working away from home “without reasonable excuse.”
During a press conference today, First Minister Mark Drakeford defended the fines, saying that the legislation for their enforcement has been in place throughout the pandemic and was voted for by the Senedd.
In an exchange in the Senedd this afternoon, Fletcher argued “thinking that responsibility is shared between employer and worker… is naïve, and anyone working in a minimum wage job can tell you where the power truly lies.”
After being challenged on the matter by Andrew RT Davies, the Leader of the Welsh Tories, Mark Drakeford told the Senedd: “Can I thank the leader of the opposition for an early opportunity to lay to rest some of the stories that have circulated about the workplace? Because this is really a story without a substance.
“As the leader of the opposition said, we are reinstating rules that we had earlier in the pandemic. These are not new rules in that sense. They are rules we have used before. They are there to create a level playing field where employers and employees both know the rights and the responsibilities that they have.
“They are designed to protect workers, not to penalise them. When we had those rules in place earlier in the pandemic, there is no record that we have been able to find of anybody being fined.
“They are there to make sure that everybody understands the regulations. And when I was at the shadow social partnership council earlier today, employers welcomed the regulations because the regulations themselves are helpful, even if the reporting of them has not been.
“And I’m very grateful to the Confederation of British Industry and other employer organisations and to trade unions and the Trades Union Congress for all the help they are giving us in making sure that workplaces and workers understand what the rules really are and what they are there to do.”
Speaking after Senedd Plenary, Luke Fletcher MS said: “The relationship between employers and their employees is not balanced, and yet we have a situation where employers could force their workers back on site – and the workers are the ones that could pick up the fine!
“The First Minister has claimed that these regulations replicate legislation previously agreed, but we now understand that this is a new duty placed on individuals.
“Members of the Senedd have not voted on these new regulations. If the Welsh Government is unable or unwilling to remove this part of the regulations, then Members of the Senedd must be given the earliest opportunity to strike down this provision.”
Liberal Democrat MS Jane Dodds said: “It is inaccurate to state the system of fines is the same as in the past. Regulation 18B, which covers the fines referred to was introduced in a different context and while it was voted for by the Senedd, we voted for it under very different circumstances.
“At the time all of Wales was under a stay at home mandate, while at the present time the guidance only applies to certain employers and employees.
“Concern over these fine is not down to ‘unhelpful reporting’, but rather a serious concern the Government is not recognising the power dynamics between workers and employers. It is not a relationship of equals and a great many people will not feel comfortable having to challenge their employer or face a fine.
“I join workers and unions across wales once again urge the Welsh Government and First Minister to drop these fines aimed at employees.”
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Whatever the motivations, this is a draconian overreach by the Welsh Government that needs to be changed immediately. The law is just as effective with responsibility resting solely where it should – with employers!
Well done, Luke!
As a Plaid member, I have been extremely worried that the deal Plaid made with Labour would stifle criticism of the Welsh government. Glad to see that you at least are standing up to this latest ridiculous decree. Would be nice to see Price doing the same, but I’m not holding my breath.