How should employers handle employees’ post holiday quarantine?

Category: Employment

Currently, going on holiday is a little bit like a rubbish lucky dip – will we be able to go? If we can’t, will we get our money back? If we can, will some new restrictions come in part-way through the break meaning we have to quarantine on our return?

Whilst it’s a headache for holiday goers themselves, its arguably more so for employers. They’re trying to deal with a large amount of holiday accrual, the uncertainty of their staff returning from abroad if they do go and, at the same time, attempting to get businesses back on their feet. Its safe to say that staycations are definitely rising in popularity! But what about the staff who are determined to go abroad, how should employers deal with them? We’ve set out some frequently asked questions below to help.

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What are the rules on quarantining?

When you arrive in the UK, you’re not allowed to leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days. That is of course, unless you’re arriving from an exempt country. This list is constantly changing so it’s essential for your staff to check before they fly). Full details can be found here (click the image below) –

If my staff do go abroad, and have to quarantine on their return, can they still work?

Quaranting or self-isolating means you can’t leave the place you are staying, for example to go to work. Therefore, staff can only work if they can work from home.

Should my staff member tell me they are quarantining?

You should ask staff, if they take holiday and need to quarantine, to let you know as soon as possible. You may then agree that they work from home if they can. If they can’t work from home, they should follow your absence procedures accordingly.

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Do I have to pay them whilst they’re quarantining?

The answer to this largely depends on if they can work from home. If they can, then you should pay them as normal. However, if they can’t, they usually aren’t entitled to be paid. In those circumstances, it will either be unpaid, you could let them to take more holiday, furlough them if they are eligible or if they are actually unwell, it will be treated as sick leave and paid accordingly.

Can’t I stop them going on holiday in the first place?

You can legally cancel employees’ holidays. Check their employment contract to make sure there are no special provisions. If not, you can cancel it by giving as much notice as the length of the leave you wish to cancel. For example, if they have two weeks’ holiday booked, you should tell them at least two weeks before it was due to start that its cancelled. When doing so, you should clearly explain why you need to cancel the holiday. However, a word of warning. Not only is it likely to be very unpopular but cancelling holiday unreasonably could result in staff looking to you for lost holiday money, grievances or in the extreme, them resigning and bringing Employment Tribunal claims against you.

A different approach is to make them aware of the consequences of going abroad. For example, if you are aware that they are going on holiday to an exempt country and will therefore have to quarantine on their return and can’t work from home, then you can make it clear that the period of self-isolation will be unpaid. If they’re of paramount importance to the business, and can’t work from home, you may also request that they don’t go abroad – if they then choose to do so, it may also be a disciplinary issue.

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How should I approach holidays with staff?

You should clearly set out your position on holiday and your expectations of staff. This could be done, for example, in a companywide email. Such correspondence should include:

  • Asking staff to let you know if they’re intending on travelling abroad and where;
  • Ensuring that staff, if they do go abroad and are required to quarantine on their return, that they let you know as soon as possible and follow absence reporting procedures if required; and
  • Whether they will be paid during quarantine.

If you need further advice on this topic, or any other employment (or specifically, COVID-19 related queries), please get in touch with our Employment team by calling 01752 827081 or emailing [email protected]