Balancing the requirement for a much-needed holiday to avoid burn out against current lockdown restrictions, quarantine and large periods of staff absence is set to be a challenge for employers this summer. Currently people living in the UK are banned from taking foreign holidays (as of April 2021).

For those employees who have foreign holidays rescheduled from last year, there remains a question over whether they will be required to quarantine on their return. This could result in a two-week holiday ending up as considerably more, due to restrictions. For those staff who haven’t booked abroad, but are considering it, there is a moral question raised. Where do employers stand on all of this?

Red list countries

At present (April 2021) the government requires any British nation returning from one of the red list countries to quarantine in one of its approved hotels for 10 days upon return at their own expense (£1750 for the first adult for 10 days).

Whilst some employees may insist that they can continue to work remotely during this period, it may not be possible. Employers are encouraged to discuss travel options to such countries and pay implications for the quarantine period.

Other countries

The list of red list countries is constantly changing and therefore any overseas travel is risky and could potentially face an element of quarantine on return. Employees are encouraged to check the red list for updates if they are planning on travelling. Currently anyone travelling into the UK from those not on the red list are required to test before and on return, but also quarantine for 10 days. This can be from home. See the full rules here.

The earliest that foreign holidays could be permitted is currently 17th May 2021. Travel after this time could be based on a traffic light system. Travellers arriving from countries which are rated ‘green’ will not be required to self-isolate, but pre and post departure tests will be needed.  For those visiting ‘amber’ or ‘red’ countries, they will be required to enter quarantine or self-isolate at home. There is currently no indication of which countries will be on the green list.

In addition, travellers may see the vaccine passport as a requirement of international travel – although this is also yet to be confirmed.

Options for employers

Employers should encourage staff to be open and transparent about their travel plans, which will enable them to work out the best viable option. 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.

It is important to consider:

  • Holding 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 they go 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.
  • If the employee will be paid for any period of quarantine if they can’t work (or take this as holiday leave).
  • Employers can dictate when holiday is taken so could look at a holiday rota for those who want to holiday abroad – this gets round the issue of short staffing because of quarantine.
  • The impact on the workforce and resources if an employee is unavailable for this period of time.
  • Managing holiday requests from multiple employees over the same time period which could result in additional time spent in quarantine.
  • The moral implications of booking an overseas holiday and how this is managed / communicated.
  • Balancing the needs of staff wellbeing who are in need of a holiday and time off.
  • Allowing employees to carry over any unused holiday if the business needs to carefully control it for this summer.
  • Consider conducting the twice weekly tests for everyone who is working in the office.
  • Limiting time off to one week if the employee will then need to quarantine as this will be an additional 2 weeks (so total of 3 weeks rather than 4)?

Quarantine Options

There are three options available to employees who visit countries outside the list of travel corridors, each of which should be discussed with a line manager to agree the most suitable option for both parties.

Working from home:

Wherever possible employees should be permitted to work from home on their return for 10 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 could 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, employers could 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.

Statutory Sick Pay

Statutory Sick Pay can’t be claimed whilst in the 10-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 10-day quarantine period then the usual rules and processes regarding sick leave and SSP should apply.

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.

For more advice and guidance on managing annual leave please get in touch with our team.