The government have announced (25th July 2020) that anyone returning to the UK from Spain, including the Balearics and Canaries, must self-isolate for 14 days. This means that they must return to their home immediately after entering the UK and remain there for 14 days.
The government will likely impose further restrictions at short notice on holidaymakers as a result of world-wide flare-ups of Covid-19 cases.
With breaking of quarantine measures resulting in a criminal offence and carrying a fine of £1,000, what does this mean for employers? What can and can’t you do if your staff go on holiday and need to quarantine?
Do our employees have to tell us if they are quarantining?
Anyone who is asked to quarantine must comply unless they are exempted from the rules. Once in quarantine, that they cannot go to work, shop for food or go outside for exercise.
Anyone who doesn’t report for work must follow their employer’s absence reporting procedure. Their absence should be recorded as “authorised” unless they are actually sick.
Can we ask staff to continue to work during quarantine?
If staff can work from home and you are happy with this arrangement then, yes.
If working from home is not an option, then you must insist that they do not return to the workplace and send them home if they present themselves at the workplace.
Do we have to pay staff who are self-isolating?
In most cases, if someone has chosen to travel abroad and then cannot return to work and they can’t work from home, they are not entitled to be paid.
However, if they have two years’ service and are travelling because you have sent them abroad for business purposes and now have to quarantine, they could resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal if you don’t pay them – even if working from home is not feasible when they get back.
Anyone who self-quarantines with no Coronavirus symptoms is not entitled to statutory sick pay, leaving effected employees without pay for 2 weeks. In this instance, you could relax your holiday policy and allow them to take any remaining holiday on their return, even if they can’t give you the normal period of notice you’d expect.
Can we tell staff not to go abroad on holiday?
You can’t normally dictate what your employees do in their own time, let alone tell them where they can or can’t holiday. But, by making it clear that they will have to follow any quarantine advice in place and won’t be paid during this time may discourage them from going. Or it may not.
Can we cancel holiday leave we’ve already authorised to prevent staff travelling abroad?
Check your contract and policies. If your contract or policies state how to cancel holidays then you must follow this.
If there is no express provision, the Working Time Regulations provide a mechanism for employers to cancel leave. Under Regulation 15(2)(b) you must give as much notice as the leave you want to cancel. Eg 2 weeks written notice for 2 weeks annual leave. You’ll need to explain to your staff why you have cancelled their holiday and tell them when and how they can re-book.
Cancelling holiday at short notice is likely to be unpopular. If workers have made plans they may ask you to compensate them for any cancellation costs they incur. They could also argue that you are acting unreasonably and are in breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, which gives them the right to resign and claim constructive dismissal (if they have two years’ service).
What do we need to tell staff before they go on holiday?
It’s helpful to set out your expectations in a policy or employee update so that your staff understand what might happen if they holiday abroad and are asked to self-isolate afterwards. This should cover:
- notifying you if they have travelled abroad
- reporting their absence (and how it will be recorded on their records)
- whether they will be paid during quarantine
- and, if not, whether they can take outstanding paid holiday.
Can we dismiss someone if they can’t return to work because they are in quarantine?
Employees don’t have specific protection from being dismissed in these circumstances, but if they have two years’ service, they may be able to claim unfair dismissal. You’d have to show you had a fair reason for dismissal and went through a fair procedure – including allowing an appeal.
Most employment judges are going to be sympathetic to anyone who has returned to the UK to find that quarantine rules were imposed during their holiday and they have remained at home as per government advice.
It may be different if an employee chose to holiday in a country despite quarantine rules being imposed. You would still have to show the reason for your dismissal was within the “reasonable range of responses”. That will depend on the individual circumstances.
**This blog have been created using information and advice available today (30th July 2020 at 2pm) .