Senedd members vote in favour of continued hybrid working
Members of the Senedd have voted in favour of continuing to work from home.
The motion, allowing hybrid working between homes and the Senedd, passed with 38 votes in favour and 14 against, on Wednesday (July 13). There were no abstentions.
During the pandemic, sessions moved online with some MSs returning to Cardiff Bay for at least part of the time since restrictions in Wales lifted.
It comes as the UK Government told staff they need to return to offices with MPs no longer able to virtually join the House of Commons chamber and select committees.
Labour and Plaid Cymru both supported the move, including Labour's John Griffiths, Plaid's Delyth Jewell, as well as Conservative Paul Davies.
Plaid's Heledd Fychan spoke in favour of the proposals arguing it made the career more accessible to those who would benefit from hybrid working.
She said: "People with caring responsibilities, for example, not only with children, but perhaps with an elderly parent or a partner who needs their support; disabled people who think that they could never be here regularly because of their conditions, and the fact that the need to be in Cardiff is a barrier to them thinking that they could be a representative of their region or constituency; and those who live far away too."
She said remote working during the pandemic had helped when her son had been ill, allowing her to be a parent whilst also representing her constituents.
Ms Fychan said: "There were so many times when I was a county councillor when I was criticised if I missed one meeting because it wasn't possible to participate in a hybrid manner, as compared to a man who was perhaps retired who could attend all meetings. Did that mean that I was a lesser representative of my community because I missed that one meeting?"
"The fact that I was then able to be there, with my child at home, whilst also representing my community, that made a very real difference, because people do use that against you, if you look at just the record of attendance. That doesn't mean that you are not an effective representative", the Plaid MS explained.
However, many Welsh Conservatives opposed the decision as Business Manager Darren Millar MS explained: "The people of Wales elect people to represent them in the Senedd, not to represent them from their sofa. There is no reason for maintaining hybrid meetings of the Senedd or its committees now that the pandemic has subsided.
"If parliaments elsewhere in the UK and around the world are able to meet fully in person then we should too. The pairing system between political parties has always been able to accommodate absences from parliaments for those who are ill, bereaved or have caring responsibilities. We don’t need changes to the rules to enable these.”
The main reasons put forward in favour of hybrid working included that it could attract more diverse MSs in the future, the benefits it can bring for those with parental and other caring responsibilities, a reduced need to travel which saves money, time and carbon emissions.
Concerns raised included the potential for MSs to only attend a vote rather than participating in full proceedings. However, both Labour and Plaid said this comes down to the responsibility of the individual.