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France, Monaco, the Netherlands and Malta are the latest countries to be added to the UK quarantine list. From 4am on Saturday 15 August 2020, individuals returning to the UK from these countries will be required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. The quarantine rules are much stricter than the lockdown rules and anyone caught breaking them in England may face a fine of up to £1,000 for a first offence, or up to £5,000 for persistent offenders.

  • What happens if an employee cannot work from home?

Where an employee can work from home, their work will most likely not be affected by having to self-isolate and they will be able to work as normal.

Where an employee cannot work from home, an employer has various options, including requesting the employee to take annual leave to cover the isolation period, placing the employee on unpaid leave, or placing them on furlough leave for the period that they are required to self-isolate. Note, however, that an employee cannot be placed on furlough leave now if they have not been furloughed for at least three weeks prior to 30 June 2020.

  • Do I have to pay my employee while in quarantine?

Where an employee is working from home, they should be paid as normal.

Those who cannot work from home will not automatically be entitled to SSP if they are self-isolating after returning to the UK from one of the countries on the UK quarantine list. This is because SSP is normally only payable due to sickness and self-isolation in the absence of symptoms is unlikely to be caught.

Unpaid leave is naturally unpaid. Holiday should be paid as normal, based on actual not furlough wages.

  • What if an employee is travelling abroad for a family emergency?

Employers should be reasonable and fair where an employee has or is travelling abroad because of a family emergency or the death of a family member outside of the UK. In these circumstances, an employer should not automatically refuse the request even if the country is on the quarantine list but should consider offering unpaid leave or special paid leave for some or all of the 14-day period in which the employee will be required to self-isolate.

Practical considerations

Although employers are free to use their discretion, the Government has requested that they be flexible and do not unreasonably penalise their staff for following the quarantine rules. In the case of an employee who travelled, abroad to a country that was on the quarantine list but the status changed while they are away, disciplinary action is very unlikely to be appropriate. However, for employees who elect to travel to countries, which are already on the quarantine list, the position may be different.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, please contact Alexandra Carn or any other member of the Employment team.

For an update on all the legal implications relating to Coronavirus, please see here.

 

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

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