The Welsh Government has provided an update for employers and employees in Wales, regarding workplaces. This may prove useful for the Welsh legal sector and affiliated industries.
What are the rules about working from home?
The Welsh Government is still encouraging people to work from home where possible. However, people who are not able to work from home, but are able to work safely in their workplaces, can do so, provided their workplace remains open.
Its guidance to employers is that employees should not be required or placed under pressure to return to a workplace setting if there is not a clearly demonstrated business need for them to do so. Employers who are considering requiring their staff to return to workplace settings should first assess whether alternative arrangements could meet the majority of the employer’s needs. This should be discussed with staff or representatives of staff.
What can I do if I am worried about the safety measures in my workplace?
The coronavirus restrictions impose obligations on people responsible for premises where work takes place to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. The Welsh Government expects that businesses and others understand the severity of the situation we are facing as a society and will take the reasonable steps necessary. We encourage employers and workers to always come together to resolve issues. However, if you remain concerned about the safety measures in any premises, then you can report this to the public protection services of the relevant local authority.
Can I carry out building, repair or maintenance work in someone’s home?
Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople, can continue as long as it is managed in a safe way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus.
Like other businesses, people working in someone else’s home must take all reasonable measures to mitigate the risk of coronavirus spreading when working in other people’s households. Please see the guidance on reasonable measures and on working in other people’s homes for more information.
It is also recommended that no work should be carried out in any household where someone is isolating, unless it is an emergency such as to repair a fault which poses a direct risk to people’s safety – for example, emergency plumbing, or carry out an adaptation to allow that household to remain in their property. If attendance is unavoidable (because of an urgent or emergency situation), additional precautions should be taken to keep workers and householders completely separate from each other. In these cases, Public Health Wales can provide advice to tradespeople and households. But no work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
I work in a business that will be forced to close down/impacted by these regulations. Is financial support being made available to support my job?
Yes, eligible businesses impacted by COVID-19 should have access to the support available from the UK Government through the extended Job Retention Scheme which will now continue until early December.
Is there any support available for people experiencing a reduction in income, for example, those on zero hour contracts?
There are a range of financial support options available if you are getting less work or no work because of COVID-19. You may be able to access support through the Discretionary Assistance Fund and apply for Universal Credit.
What support is available for self-employed people and freelancers?
Self-employed people may be eligible to claim financial support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (on GOV.UK).
Freelancers working in cultural and creative sectors are able to apply for the Cultural Recovery Fund (on GOV.UK).
The Welsh Government is also making available £25m for local authorities to provide a discretionary grant for businesses that are closed or materially impacted. You can register and apply for this via your local authority website.
Coronavirus support for businesses can also be found on the Business Wales website.
My employer has had Welsh Government funding but is now making redundancies, what should I do?
Any employer in receipt of Welsh Government funding will need to continue to meet the conditions that are attached to that funding. The conditions attached to funding will vary and do not necessarily prevent an employer from making redundancies. If you are at risk of redundancy you should speak to your trade union, or seek further advice from Acas on your rights during redundancy.
I live in England but work in Wales, can I still travel?
Travelling in and out of Wales is not allowed unless you have a reasonable excuse. Where necessary travelling to a workplace in Wales is a reasonable excuse to enter Wales under the rules. Similarly, the rules allow people living in Wales to travel to England for work purposes where this is necessary and they cannot work from home.
However, the Welsh Government cannot advise on the law that applies in England. Please see the UK Government’s guidance on restrictions in England for further information.
Can I do voluntary work?
Yes, although you should do so from home if reasonably practicable. If you are looking for more local volunteering opportunities you can contact your local County Voluntary Council (CVC).
You can also go out to provide care or help to a vulnerable person, including emergency help. This includes getting food and medicines for them. But it is important you do not put yourself or the person you are caring for at risk.
Further information can be found here.
Legal News Wales will continue to keep readers updated on any changes to this – or advice from sector member organisations.