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The Changing Landscape of Foreign Travel & Returning to the UK

The latest chapter in this year’s Covid-19 nightmare continues with employers now having to deal with the ever-changing landscape of foreign travel and quarantine rules and the subsequent impact this is having on employees and the business. 

The Government is asking employers to be understanding in situations where employees are being asked to self-isolate on return from countries outside of the ‘travel-corridors’, however for many businesses this will be an added pressure in what are already challenging trading conditions. 

Where employees can work from home it may be possible to accommodate remote working for the 14 days after their return from holiday, but what if that’s not possible? 

Statutory Sick Pay does not extend to employees required to quarantine under these circumstances. So, unless employees are suffering symptoms themselves, live with someone with symptoms or have been notified by contact tracing that they have been in contact with a confirmed case, then SSP is not an option. 

Where your employee has annual leave left for the year you can ask them to use this (insisting is probably not an option as you won’t have the required notice!). If they have used up leave days or don’t have enough annual leave to use, you should try to be flexible and offer some unpaid leave. 

In circumstances where an employee was travelling abroad for business purposes, and quarantine is brought in, we recommend you pay them as normal on their return, even if they cannot carry out their role from home.   

It would be useful to communicate with employees as soon as possible, how you intend to deal with this situation so that they have complete clarity on your stance.   

  • Recommend that they keep an eye on FCO guidance which is being updated as things change and reiterate that FCO guidance will drive travel insurance implications.  
  • If they are planning to travel to a country where quarantine is required on return, ask them to let you know in advance (please note that any travel against FCO advice will mean that their travel insurance will not operate).  
  • Ensure they are aware that they if guidance changes whilst they are on holiday and they are required to quarantine they should report absence in the normal way. 
  • Set out whether they will be paid during quarantine and if not whether they will be able to take outstanding holidays or whether absence will be unpaid leave.  

Whilst some employers may be considering cancelling leave to prevent staff travelling abroad, this is not ideal, and you should talk to us if this is something you are thinking about. It will be unpopular with your staff and could land you with legal challenges and claims for compensation of cancellation costs.  

Similarly dealing with absence due to quarantine via your disciplinary process may be possible in theory but a court may be sympathetic to an employee who is simply following government advice, particularly if it changed whilst they were on holiday.  

So, keep calm, carry on and talk to us if you have any queries. We’ll update you if things change.

By Angela Stancer ACII HR Manager


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