Many popular holiday destinations are classified as ‘amber’ on the government’s travel traffic light system, with guidance changing frequently. Despite this, holiday makers are still planning on visiting the countries regardless of this classification. So, what does this mean for employers if your staff choose to holiday in an amber list destination, and what can you advise them? Here’s our guide…

What is the traffic light system?

This is the rating system based on a country’s vaccination rates, infection rates and prevalence of variants of concern.  What you must do when you arrive in England from abroad depends on where you have been in the 10 days before you arrive. The rules also vary depending on whether travellers are double vaccinated.

Anyone travelling or returning to England must currently compete a passenger locator form before departure. You can read the most up to date guidance here.

Green (vaccinated and non-vaccinated)

  • Pre-departure test required before returning to England.
  • Post-arrival PCR test.
  • Must complete a passenger locator form.

Amber (for fully vaccinated)

  • Pre-departure test required before returning to England.
  • PCR test two days after arrival in England.
  • Complete a passenger locator form.
  • Declare that they are fully UK vaccinated on the passenger locator form.
  • Show proof of vaccination status to the carrier.
  • They do not need to quarantine unless the day 2 test result is positive.

The amber list rules for fully UK vaccinated people does not apply to France. If someone has been in France in the 10 days before they arrive in England, they must follow the standard amber list rules.

Amber (for non-vaccinated)

  • Take a COVID-19 test before departure
  • Take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8.
  • complete a passenger locator form
  • Upon arrival quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days.
  • They may be able to end quarantine early if they pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.


  • Non-residents banned entirely.
  • Compulsory hotel quarantine on return, plus tests for returning residents.

What is a test to release?

The test to release scheme allows travellers to pay for a private Covid-19 test. If this is negative, they can end their quarantine. However, the test cannot be taken until the traveller has been in England for a full five days. It only applies to those quarantining in England.

Anyone who has been in, or travelled through, a red country in the 10 days before arrival in England cannot take part in the test to release scheme.

To take part, travellers need to:

  • Book a test before travelling to England.
  • Enter the details of their test in the passenger locator form.
  • Pay a private test provider for the test (an individual test needs to be booked for each person, including children of all ages).
  • If the test is negative then quarantine can end as soon as the result is received. Although a compulsory test is still required on or after day eight.
  • If the test is positive then the traveller needs to quarantine for another 10 days (which starts from the day after the test was taken or from when any symptoms started). Another test is required on or after day eight.
  • If an inconclusive result is received then quarantine should continue. Travellers can choose to take another private test to end quarantine.
  • There are fines from £1,000 – £10,000 for failure to quarantine.

Read more about test to release.

What are the implications for employers?

Foreign travel could have a large impact on employers this summer. Even if staff visit countries on the green list, there is still a risk that the destination could move to amber whilst they are away, resulting in a period of self-isolation upon return (if they are not fully vaccinated), or worse still that an amber country could move to the red list.

Staff will need to factor in the self-isolation time upon return, and how that’s managed.

There is also the threat that staff may get ill, or contract Covid-19 whilst on holiday which would also mean a longer absence for the business.

What should you advise staff?

If staff do book holidays, then they should first check Foreign Office advice on that country to find out the latest updates (they can also sign up for email updates on specific countries).

  • Encourage staff to check their travel insurance, which may not be valid if the Foreign Office is advising against travel to that country.
  • Plan for self-isolation / remote working. Are they able to work from home for the self-isolation which could be between five and ten days? If not, are they able to take annual leave to cover the additional time?
  • Can they take the ‘test to release’ option which cuts self-isolation down to five days? Are they aware of the financial implications of doing this?
  • Ask staff to inform you of their holiday destinations so that you can make contingency plans. If a country moves to amber or red whilst they are away this could mean unexpected self-isolation on return and a knock-on effect to the business.
  • Staff should check the entry requirements to the country they are visiting. See the full advice country by country
  • If staff need a negative Covid test to enter a country, they will need to find a private provider.
  • Make staff aware that if they test positive for Covid whilst on holiday they may not be able to leave and will have to extend their trip to cover the isolation time, plus the isolation required on re-entry to the UK.
  • Ensure staff are aware that extended periods of absence from work due to self-isolation may be unpaid if they do not have sufficient annual leave to cover the period of absence.

For advice on individual situations or staff travel, get in touch for a chat and we would be happy to advise.