Wales is threatening £60 fines for employees making ‘unnecessary’ trip to work under new anti-Omicron laws – but going to the pub is still allowed. From Monday, employees will be handed the fixed penalty notice and companies will face a £1,000 fine for each time the rule is broken, rising to a potential £10,000.
The new health protection restrictions will make it an offence for ‘failing to work from home where reasonably practicable to do so’. However, critics have pointed out that under the rules, Welsh people can still legally visit pubs, shops and restaurants and not face the same punishment.
Up until now, the Welsh government had advised working from home but the new measures will enforce everyone to stay away from the office unless it is essential.
The draconian rules were enforced due to sharply rising cases of the Omicron variant. But some fear that staff may now be put off working altogether for fear of getting a criminal record.
The GMB trade union say they fear poor and vulnerable workers will be targeted with the new rules, with employers able to blame staff and escape punishment.
It’s not the first time the Labour-run Government has become embroiled in controversy with coronavirus legislation – having previously been criticised for a ban on the sale of ‘non-essential’ items.
Clwyd West Tory MP David Jones said: ‘The lack of clarity in this position is very troubling. More guidance should be given as to what is meant by ‘reasonably practicable’.
‘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.
Some workers who go to the office for their mental health or because of distractions at home could now find themselves breaking the law.
The First Minister announced: ‘To reduce the number of contacts between people, the coronavirus regulations will be amended to place a legal duty on employers to allow their employees to work from home if possible, and on employees to do so where practicable.