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Post-holiday Quarantine: What Can Employers Do?

We are into the summer holiday season and families are taking advantage of the recent ease of lockdown measures to get away. However, given the unpredictability of coronavirus rates and the likelihood of government responses to spikes in infection rates overseas, employers should be considering what their overall policy will be on post-holiday quarantine.

Individuals travelling to England are required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days unless they are arriving from an exempt country. However, the list of exempt countries is being kept under constant review and changing quickly with little notice. On 25th July, for example, Spain was removed from the list of exemptions. It is very possible therefore that the list of exempt countries will change while an employee is on holiday, and that they will be required to self-isolate on their return. This would, if they are unable to work from home, disrupt their planned date of return to work.

There is no current entitlement to statutory sick pay for employees who cannot do their job from home but cannot attend work as a result of the quarantine requirement.

In addition, if they cannot do their job they technically have no entitlement to pay even if they are ready and willing to work. As this does create a very difficult situation for employees, employers have been encouraged by the government to try to be flexible in these circumstances. This may include options such as;

  • an employer taking a view on what pay can be offered to an employee during the 14-day quarantine period, or by being creative about work that employees could carry out from home.
  • allowing the employee to take further holiday during the quarantine period. Usually holiday notice requirements would prevent employees from being granted up to two weeks of holiday at such late notice. However, if employers are willing to relax these requirements, some employees may prefer to use their holiday entitlement to ensure that they are paid.
  • employers do have the ability to cancel employee holiday provided that they comply with statutory minimum notice requirements of such cancellation or such longer notice periods set out in any company policy or employment contract. Employers must also provide reasons for cancellation and give the opportunity to re-book. However, this approach is unlikely to go down well with employees, not only because they will lose their holiday but also because they may lose money through last minute cancellations. Employers should also be mindful of the purpose of annual leave and are also obliged to ensure that employees take a statutory minimum number of days’ holiday. It is not within an employer’s remit to restrict or dictate employees’ travel during their holidays, even if the employee may need to self-isolate as a result.
  • to discipline employees who had quarantine requirements imposed whilst they were on holiday. If an employee chooses to visit a country which is subject to quarantine rules before travelling, the approach to any disciplinary action may be different as that employee has deliberately chosen to take action that will prevent them from carrying out their role. The extent and nature of any disciplinary action should be considered on a case by case basis and is likely to be interpreted as a heavy-handed approach and not in line with the government advice for employers to be flexible.

Failure to comply with quarantine restrictions could result in criminal prosecution and a fine for the individual of up to £1,000. In the first instance this should deter people from breaching the quarantine requirements. Employers should also actively ensure that any employees who are required to self-isolate after travel do not attend the workplace. If they did turn up they should immediately be sent home. If employers fail to do this, then they risk breaching their legal duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

Therefore, employers may wish to outline to employees at an early stage what the consequences will be if they take the risk of going abroad and are caught out by quarantine rules imposed during their trip, particularly where employees cannot work from home. This will also assist employees by allowing them to make an informed decision on taking their holidays. If there is a risk that an employee could go two weeks without pay post-holiday, then it is important that employees are made aware of this before travelling.

For any further advise please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

Copyright Clover HR

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