Working from home 'compulsory' when possible, says work minister
Confusion within government about rule, as spokesperson says current state of alarm does not permit such obligation
The Catalan work minister, Chakir el Homrani, made clear on Tuesday that all businesses must accept that their employees work from home when possible or else risk facing fines.
In an interview with Rac1 station, the member of government said that the latest health department rulings in mid-October and on October 25 imply that working by proxy is "compulsory" for both the public and private sectors.
"[Companies failing to implement remote work] can be fined just like bars opening or offering food delivery beyond 10 pm," said El Homrani.
In order to emphasize it, Catalonia's labor relations committee approved on Monday a declaration insisting that "in-person work can happen only when mobility is unavoidable"
"In the cases where working at a distance is not possible, other measures such as establishing staggered entry and exit, time flexibility or similar rules, so that rush hour on public transport is avoided."
The committee includes the Catalan government, trade unions CCOO and UGT, and business associations Pimec and Foment.
Contradictory remarks from fellow ministers
Yet, the declaration and the remarks by el Homrani created some confusion, as on Monday the government spokesperson Meritxell Budó had said that the exceptional powers granted to the Catalan administration under the current state of alarm do not allow making work from home compulsory.
On Tuesday, Budó repeated that view, insisting that "working from home is not mandatory," as the government does not currently have the power to regulate private workplaces in this way.
Budó did state that remote working has to be promoted: "It is the duty of companies to encourage it," she said during a press conference following a cabinet meeting.
But the work ministry continued to insist that companies that do not promote remote working can be sanctioned through laws on public health.
Although working from home is not specifically mentioned in the relevant legislation, Work Secretary Josep Ginestra said inspectors from the departments of work and health have the power to enforce preventative measures to tackle the pandemic.
Elsewhere, on Tuesday the economy minister Ramon Tremosa said in a Catalunya Ràdio station interview that it was a recommendation rather than an obligation.