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Quarantining when returning from holiday – Employers and Employees


Quarantining - Employers and Employees

Whether you’re an employer or employee you may be worried about quarantining when you return from holiday. Following the release of some of the travel restrictions and the COVID ‘air bridges’ an increasing number of people are thinking of taking the chance to grab some much-needed sun especially given the forthcoming half-term holiday and before the winter hits. However, as we’ve seen recently, even though the country to which you travel might not be on the quarantine list when you go, you could find yourself in a different position halfway through your holiday. So what are your rights for returning to work? Or you may be an employer with employees who need to quarantine on their return from holiday. What do you need to put in place?

The rules might depend on your employment or work situation. If you return from a country on the quarantine list then you will need to quarantine for 14 days. The simplest option is to work from home if you can, which is no different to how many people have been working since the introduction of the lockdown in March.

However, not all employees have roles which enable them to work from home. If you are (or have) an employee that falls into this category then you may need to take additional annual leave to cover the quarantine period. Not all employees will have sufficient leave remaining to make this possible and therefore the leave request may be refused. As an employer, you could then consider further options such as furlough (subject to the furlough conditions) and if the employee agrees to this. Remember though that the furlough scheme (in its’ current form) ends on 31st October 2020.

The employer can also enforce annual leave by giving the required amount of notice (double the length of the holiday being enforced), or offer unpaid leave to the employee.

If an employee is quarantining when returning from holiday to the UK and is not able to work from home or take annual leave (paid or unpaid), then they need to be aware that they are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), although the employer can choose to pay an employee sick pay (either SSP or higher), this is not a legal requirement.

If you are considering travelling to a country which is on the quarantine list, or have employees looking to take leave there, then an employer is entitled to cancel leave requests (if working from home on return cannot be accommodated) even if they have already approved the request. However, the employer must give sufficient notice (the same amount as the leave requested) and they should consider the impact on the employee, for example, the cost of the holiday if it has already been booked, and the potential harm to the employer/employee relationship.

Both parties must also ensure that an employee who is required to self-isolate does so for the full 14 days. Failure to comply with the regulations can result in a fixed penalty notice for the employee starting at £1,000 and £10,000 for employers who knowingly permit or force an employee to breach the self-isolation requirement.

A final consideration for both employers and employees will be the fact that with the ever-changing situation in places close to home such as Wales, Scotland & Ireland then the reality is that far fewer people will be able to go on holidays that they may have booked this half-term.

Hibberts can offer support to employers or employees in this rapidly changing situation, contact our employment solicitors should you require any advice..