Covid updates | 'Naive' fines for staff who head to office, hospitality funding & isolation times cut

'Naive' fines for staff who head to office, hospitality funding & isolation times cut

When Boris Johnson announced a ‘roadmap’ out of Covid restrictions earlier this year, to be completed before the summer’s end, few could have expected the threat of new rules once again just days before Christmas.

And yet, in the past fortnight, guidance on working from home has returned, alongside reimposed rules on face masks in public settings and the acceleration of the booster jab programme.

And in this past week alone, several big changes have been made that the people function should keep on top of. Here, HR Grapevine explores some of the most significant measures:

Fines for working from the office

Fines will be handed out to employees in Wales who go to work when they could work from home, the BBC reported today.

From Monday, workers will receive a £60 fixed penalty notice, and companies could be hit with fines of £1,000 every time they break the rule.

The decision has been a controversial one, with both rival politicians and union heads speaking out against it.

The union GMB said it would affect "the poorest, most vulnerable workers" while the TUC said it was "at best naïve", according to the broadcaster.

A Spokesperson for the Welsh government told the BBC: "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 homeworking and provide employees with the support they need."

GMB expressed concerns about how the measures would affected the “poorest and most vulnerable workers”.

Senior organiser Kelly Andrews said: "We think this strikes the wrong chord.

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"We have major worries that this could lead to bad employers pressuring their workers to work from home without a paper trail and place any financial risk on them.

"Those workers are also the most vulnerable and can least afford to take the financial hit.

"But the truth is for a lot of families a £60 fine over Christmas will have a severe financial impact."

Cash for hospitality sector

Amid huge waves of booking cancellations as a result of the rise in Covid cases, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out a £1billion fund to help businesses in the leisure and hospitality sector.

The Guardian reported that businesses such as pubs and restaurants will be able to apply for cash grants of up to £6,000 per premises.

The Government would also help some firms with the cost of sick pay for Covid-related absences, Sunak said.

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An additional £30million has also been unveiled to help theatres and museums.

Sunak said the new support was "generous" and recognised the situation facing businesses in the run-up to Christmas.

Some industry figures have welcomed what they described as "unprecedented" support, but others said the measures do not go far enough.

Self-isolation times slashed

Another change to Covid measures, which could affect HR, is the reduction in self-isolation times.

The Health Secretary, Savid Javid, announced today that he has shortened the coronavirus self-isolation period from ten to seven days, for people who have negative lateral flow test results on days six and seven.

Speaking to the BBC, Javid said the changes would "reduce the disruption to people's everyday lives".

For workers whose jobs cannot be done from home, the reduction in isolation periods could be a huge boost by allowing them back into the workplace sooner and help industries avoid huge worker shortages, as were seen during this year’s ‘Pingdemic’.

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