It is customary for many employees to take two weeks’ holiday over the summer months. This usually involves foreign travel. Travel abroad is beginning to open up but how will employers manage their employees taking holidays abroad with the rules on quarantine?
With the exception of those coming from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, anyone, whether a British citizen or not, coming into the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.
If an employee can work from home then the effect of the quarantine rule will have little practical implication. On return from holiday they can “return to work” at home. However, what is the position for employees who cannot work from home?
There are various options for employers:
- Treat the quarantine period as holiday. This may be useful for employers who have employees who have accrued a large amount of holiday.
- Treat the period as unpaid leave. This may be unpopular with employees but may have the desirable effect of reducing the number of employees taking holidays abroad.
- Treat the period as sick leave. The rules on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) are clear that the when an individual is self-isolating because they or someone in their household has Covid-19 symptoms or they are shielding then that individual is entitled to SSP. However, as yet, there is no guidance as to whether this would also apply to post travel self-isolation. Accordingly, whether SSP would be payable for this period is unclear, but at least currently it appears it would not be.
- Inform employees that a failure to return to work following holiday will be viewed as unauthorised absence (a potentially disciplinary matter) where the employee has travelled knowing that they will have to self-isolate for 14 days on return. This needs to be done very careful to prevent any suggestion that an employer is encouraging a breach of the quarantine rules.
Holiday is always a very sensitive issue for staff. Employers will need to manage communication and the introduction of any new rules extremely carefully to avoid breaching contacts of employment.
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