We may have had Freedom Day in the UK but the pandemic is still very much here. What do employers do if employees wish to holiday abroad and how do we manage swift changes in the isolation rules?
Holidays abroad seemed like a thing of the past for a while until the government introduced a traffic light system which has different procedures for those who wish to travel to another country.
The Traffic Light System
Currently Green countries are those countries which do not require quarantine upon return to the UK.
Amber destinations are deemed to have more risk than Green countries and will require quarantine for people who have not been vaccinated or travel before the rules change on August 16th 2021.
Red destinations are countries which the government has advised against travelling to and require a hotel quarantine period.
But what happens when a country moves suddenly from Green to Amber, Amber to Red or when the rules change at short notice just as they did with Paris?
Banning Staff From Going Abroad
Of course we cannot and would not want to ban staff from travelling abroad. Travelling means different things to different people. For some it is the joy of seeing somewhere new, to others it may mean a long awaited hug from a family member or loved one and for others still it is a matter of business.
It would not be reasonable or appropriate to stop staff from travelling and if it resulted in dismissal it could lead to an unfair dismissal claim.
However we do suggest advising staff that travelling might be at their own financial risk if they are required to isolate.
Do I have to pay staff to Self-Isolate following travel?
The current rules are that staff who are required to self isolate by law are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from Day One of isolation. You can pay more but SSP is the minimum that you must pay.
Can I request that staff work during isolation?
If staff are able to work from home and they are well enough to do so you can ask staff to work from home. If staff are working from home they should receive full pay.
Can I insist that staff attend their place of work during Self Isolation?
As of September 2020 it became illegal for an employer to allow a member of staff to work anywhere but their place of isolation during self isolation. Insisting that a staff member attend work when they should be in quarantine can result in a £10,000 fine for the employer.
Aside from the legalities and the fine, it would also put other staff, service users and clients at risk.
What can I do if my employee asks to use annual leave during self isolation?
There is nothing stopping you allowing a staff member to use annual leave during self isolation. It may well help them financially.
Employers can also request that staff use annual leave at any time providing they give twice as much notice as the leave they would like the employee to take. In real terms this means, 2 days notice for 1 day annual leave or 8 days notice to use 4 days annual leave.
Should I be telling my staff the procedure for self isolation following the holiday?
There is no legal requirement to outline a self- isolation procedure following annual leave but this is good practice. It will help staff know what they should do if they find themselves in a quarantine situation after a holiday. It also helps managers know what they should be doing.
Where can I get HR and Employment Law Support with staff?
You can get free advice from acas and from our newsletters.