Workplace ‘social distancing’ to become law in Wales amid worker concerns for safety

Welsh Government is to enforce ‘social distancing’ at work with a law requiring employers to abide by the two metre rule where “reasonable”.

Up to now businesses have been advised to keep two metre distances between staff in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus in workplaces.

But concerns have been raised about this by fearful workers and unions – with Conservative Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders also writing to First Minister Mark Drakeford this week raising issues in the construction sector.

Now Mr Drakeford has announced Welsh Government will make the two metre requirement a law – which will come into force by Tuesday morning.

He said: “We are going to put into law the two metre requirement in the workplace, requiring employers to take all reasonable actions to comply with that two metre rule.

First Minister Mark Drakeford at a press conference on March 30
(Image: Welsh Government)

“It is simply saying to employers that they must put the needs of their workforce first, that their health and well- being must be top of the agenda and the two metre rule is there to protect that. But if they take all reasonable actions and comply with the guidance we are giving their businesses can continue.

“This is not about stopping businesses from operating, it is about businesses operating in a way that is safe for their employees.

“We have heard the message coming from some people that they are fearful of the way that their health is being compromised in the workplace.

“It doesn’t have to be that way, the bulk of Welsh employers are doing heroic things to protect the health of their employees. We need every employer to be in that position.”

Speaking prior to the announcement, AM Janet Finch-Saunders had said: ” Projects such as temporary hospitals and repairing flood damaged homes are invaluable to people’s lives

“Individuals in the construction sector are using their skills to support our nation in one of its greatest hours of need, so I want to ensure that the state is doing everything it can to assist them.

     

Janet Finch-Saunders AM, in the Senedd, Cardiff Bay
Janet Finch-Saunders AM
(Image: Free editorial use)

“Whilst the First Minister has advised that construction sites must operate safely, I know from project directors, contractors, and tradesmen, that serious concerns need addressing.

“I’m seeking clarity on regulation, support with abuse, safe distancing, essential sites, and what risk assessment was undertaken before deciding that all construction projects could continue.

“I know that the First Minister has admitted yesterday that finding a legal way of addressing some construction site concerns is challenging, and appreciate that he is working on the matter, but I would urge him to provide much needed clarity to the sector urgently.”