WORKERS in Wales could be landed with fines if they go into work when they could be working from home.
Employees who breach the tight new rules, on preventing the spread of coronavirus, could be slapped with £60 fixed-penalty notices (reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days) if they are found to be in the workplace when they could instead be working at home.
The Welsh Government has encouraged working-from-home since the beginning of the pandemic, but this week Mark Drakeford has made those rules legally binding, with strict penalties for people who break the rules.
And it isn’t just employees who are legally required to follow new work-from-home laws.
Businesses are now required to take “all reasonable measures… to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus”, including allowing or requiring staff to work from home.
Firms which breach these laws can be slapped with premises improvement or closure notices – the same kind of punishments that places like bars and restaurants have been handed if they haven’t been working to keep customers safe.Any companies that then fail to comply with the notices could be fined £1,000 for the first offence, rising up to £10,000.
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The Welsh Government said it expects enforcement to be “proportionate”, and in updated guidance published this week, acknowledged that the risk of spreading coronavirus should be balanced against “the detrimental effect working from home may be having on an employee’s wellbeing”.
“In these circumstances if employees in this position can return to the workplace setting without a significant increase in the risk of exposure to coronavirus, this should be allowed,” the guidance reads.
The Welsh Government said its latest measures have been introduced “to limit the spread of the virus and protect public health”.
A spokesman added: “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 new laws also apply to people who live in Wales but normally work in England.
The Welsh Government spokesman added: “For all those who live in Wales, Welsh law applies and this provision must be complied with regardless of whether they work in England.
“However, there is an exception to the rule if it not reasonably practicable to work from home, and if an employer in England has a good reason for requiring people to be present in the workplace this is likely to apply.”