As many employees take holidays or business travel, they may be required to quarantine on return. What are your obligations as a business and how can you deal with this? We recommend putting a Coronavirus Quarantine Policy in place to help when making decisions about employees to help navigate the ever-changing landscape of quarantine rules as they are enforced by government legislation.
What are the quarantine rules and exemptions?
- From 26th July 2020 anyone entering the UK (even residents returning home) from any destination as prescribed by the government have to self-isolate for 14 days. The quarantine rules are reviewed and updated regularly therefore managers and employees should regularly check for up to date government advice at https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control
- Employees who are visiting or returning to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should check the government guidelines as the rules may differ.
- Employees should be aware that if the government advises against travel it is very unlikely that any travel insurance will be valid, therefore policies should be checked carefully, particularly in respect of emergency treatment and repatriation following illness or injury overseas including Coronavirus related illness.
- Employees who re-enter the UK from any country not on the exempt list must self-isolate for 14 days even if they only stopped in that country in transit. This rule will be reviewed regularly so managers and employees should regularly check for up to date government advice https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors
- Employees should be aware that travel restrictions may be imposed by destination countries at short notice and should discuss and agree a contingency plan with their manager, in the event that they find themselves unable to return to the UK as planned.
How do you manage employees booking holiday?
Ideally employees should consider travelling only to those countries which do not require the 14-day quarantine period upon return. Employees and managers should keep in mind when discussing and agreeing holiday arrangements that a decision to impose a quarantine on travellers may be sudden.
Managers will have open discussions with employees about holiday plans to countries where quarantine is required on return and proposals for that quarantine period upon their return. This will apply whether the quarantine was known in advance or imposed suddenly.
- Discuss the quarantine requirements with the employee before he/she goes away, to ensure they understand the rules that apply in the country they are visiting and the rules that apply on their return.
- Agree how the employee’s return will be managed.
- Be aware of any last-minute changes to quarantine rules and reassure employees that an agreed plan can be implemented.
- Advise employees in advance not to travel to countries outside the current travel corridors.
There are three options available to employees who visit countries outside the list of travel corridors, each of which should be discussed to agree the most suitable option for both parties.
- Working from home:
Wherever possible employees will be permitted to work from home on their return for 14 days from countries where quarantine is required upon return. If the employee is unable to work from home due either to the nature of their role or their personal situation, an alternative option must be considered.
- Unpaid Leave:
Employees will be permitted to take a period of unpaid leave if home working is not an option during the quarantine period.
- Annual Leave:
If employees are unable to work from home and do not want to take the option of unpaid leave, the employer may consider a request to utilise annual leave entitlement during the quarantine period. However, the annual leave entitlement must have been accrued by the date that quarantine commences and there must be sufficient entitlement remaining to cover any scheduled business closures e.g. Christmas.
What about Statutory Sick Pay?
Statutory Sick Pay can’t be claimed whilst in the 14-day quarantine period as post travel quarantining is not a ground for claiming SSP.
If an employee begins to show symptoms of Coronavirus at any point including any 14-day quarantine period then the usual rules and processes regarding sick leave and SSP will apply. Employees should be required to adhere to the virus testing rules in place at the time.
Employees who are faced with a sudden quarantine period cannot claim SSP if they need to quarantine because of the trip. However, SSP may be payable if they have symptoms or are contacted by the track and trace service.