The Welsh Government made going to work a crime on Tuesday, introducing a £60 fine for anyone unnecessarily travelling to the office.
The new rules, which come into force on Monday, were branded “outrageous” and “naive” and will raise serious questions about how Welsh police will enforce the emergency legislation.
The Labour administration in Cardiff said the new fixed penalty notice was being introduced to curb the spread of Covid-19 and the omicron variant. But critics pointed out that Welsh people can currently legally still visit a pub, shop or restaurant but effectively be criminalised for going to work.
Welsh people crossing the border to England to work can also be fined on their return. It is unclear if English people making the journey in the opposite direction could also be stopped.
‘Legal requirement to work from home’
A Welsh government spokesman said on Tuesday: “Additional measures have been 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.
“We expect employers to take all reasonable steps to facilitate home working and provide employees with the support they need.”
A spokesman said it would be up to individual police officers to issue the fines.
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, is expected to announce further Covid restrictions on Wednesday
Credit: Ben Birchall/PA
Mark Drakeford, the country’s First Minister, is due to address the Welsh Senedd on Wednesday where he is expected to announce further lockdown measures. The rules will put Wales at odds with Westminster after Boris Johnson announced no new restrictions until after Christmas.
Under the new laws, employees living in Wales are liable to a £60 fine for going to the office or even performing voluntary or charitable work that could be undertaken at home.
‘The Welsh Labour Party have in effect become soft nationalists’
Employers face fines of £1,000 if their staff travel to work needlessly, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders.
Alun Cairns, the former Wales Secretary and Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, said the policy was designed to “drive a wedge between England and Wales”.
Mr Cairns said: “It is outrageous. The Welsh Labour Party have in effect become soft nationalists, and in doing so have sought to create a barrier between Wales and England,” he said, accusing the Labour administration of using Covid “to prevent movement across the border”.
The measures were also criticised by the Trades Union Congress and GMB union, which said they would affect the “the poorest, most vulnerable workers” and reflected a “naive” view that employees can choose whether to travel to work.