Holiday and Quarantine

Recent changes to the quarantine rules for travellers arriving into the UK from some countries such as Spain, Belgium and the Bahamas will mean that employees who are holidaying in these destinations unexpectedly find themselves being required to quarantine for 14 days on their return. With the possibility of further coronavirus flareups this is unlikely to be the last time the government may need to make changes to the list of countries on its travel corridor scheme with little notice.

With this in mind, employers may wish to consider how they will approach the situation of an employee who unexpectedly finds themselves being required to quarantine on return from holiday. We set out some key points to think about below.

1. Can disruption to the organisation be minimised?

You can allow employees to work from home during quarantine if it is possible for them to do so. This can help to minimise any disruption caused to the organisation. If they work from home, they will be entitled to be paid as usual.

However, there will be many employees for whom working from home is not possible, in which case they must not be asked to return to the workplace during quarantine.

2. What about pay during quarantine?

If an employee isn’t working from home, they won’t usually be entitled to be paid during the quarantine period. In terms of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), as it currently stands, employees won’t be entitled to this just because they need to quarantine on their return (if they became unwell however this would be different).

As employees may find themselves unexpectedly facing a period without pay, you may wish to offer them the option of taking annual leave to cover some/all of the quarantine period if they have any left. This is likely to benefit the organisation as it will reduce the amount of time overall that the employee will be away from work in the year.

Whilst it may be unlikely, before taking action it’s important to check to make sure there is no custom and practice in your organisation or any company policies such as those for company sick pay, that would entitle an employee to be paid in this situation.

3. Can we discipline an employee who can’t return to work because they are quarantining?

It’s unlikely to be reasonable to discipline an employee who has returned to find that quarantine rules were imposed during their holiday and they are abiding by them. It’s important to bear in mind that employees who have two years’ service or more can complain to an employment tribunal if they feel they have been constructively or unfairly dismissed.

Employers should always seek advice on the facts of their situation before taking disciplinary or other action in relation to an employee.

4. Are there any steps we can take now?

If you consider that quarantining on return from holiday may be an issue for your organisation, for example you are aware that a number of employees are planning to travel abroad, you may find it helpful to communicate what might happen if they do so and are required to quarantine afterwards.

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.

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