The guidance in this article is correct as of 04/09/20. The government rules surrounding quarantine following international travel and how employment law should be applied are subject to change so if you require specific advice, we would always advise you speak with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
In order to limit the spread of coronavirus, the Government has put in place quarantine rules for people returning to the UK from abroad. If a person is returning from a country that is not included on the exemptions list, they must self-isolate immediately on their return for 14 days. It is an offence to fail to adhere to the self-isolation requirement.
The Government has issued guidance some of which we summarise as follows:
Allow Employees to Work from Home
If an employee has returned to the UK from abroad (excluding countries on the exemptions list), and has to self-isolate for 14 days, where possible, they should work from home. Ideally, this should be arranged and agreed with the employee before they leave the UK.
Ask Employees to Take Additional Annual Leave
If it is not possible for an employee to work from home due to the nature of the work, you may need to arrange for them to take additional annual leave to cover the 14-day isolation period, providing they have enough leave left to cover it.
As an employer, the government guidance is that you can tell your employee to take the extra leave as long as you give them enough notice. In this case, the notice period is equal to the amount of leave you are requesting they take. However, there may be an argument that if the employee does not wish to take the annual leave, an employer may not be able to force them because they will be effectively confined to their house and the rest and relaxation purpose of annual leave until the Working Time Directive may not be met. It will be up to case law to determine this point.
Paid Leave, Unpaid Leave or Sick Pay?
Where an employee cannot work from home or take annual leave, the position concerning pay is not clear. The government guidance does not address this point. There are a number of legal points concerning this and we suggest you take advice on your particular situation.
Employers are likely to be less sympathetic in circumstances where an employee is not yet in a country that has been removed from the exemption list as they have an opportunity to discuss the situation with their employer or rearrange their travel plans due to the quarantine requirements.
Employees who have not agreed a plan with their employer before they travel and who then isolate when they are scheduled to return to work are likely to be absent without authorisation which may be dealt with as a disciplinary matter.
However, employers should consider the risk of unfair dismissal claims and be particularly sympathetic where quarantine rules came into place after the employee had already set off.
Communicate the Policy you will adopt
Whatever stance you decide to take as a business concerning travel abroad and quarantine, you must make your policy clear and inform your workforce. You should update any written holiday policy in your staff handbook.
If you require advice about managing employees and workers who need to quarantine after travelling abroad or updating your policies and procedures, please contact Farleys employment team. Call us today on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.