Managing Employee Quarantine Periods

In June, we wrote about the potential difficulties employers might face in managing quarantine periods and annual leave as foreign travel began to open up. This is a situation that has become a reality with the UK government having re-imposed the 14-day quarantine period for travellers returning to the UK from Spain from 26 July.

This change in policy – due to an increase in coronavirus cases in Spain – has caused confusion and uncertainty among holiday makers, and it could become a headache for employers. Given that many will have travelled already, in the belief that they wouldn’t need to self-isolate, this is a difficult situation for both employers and employees who now have to manage the resulting quarantine periods.

The rules apply to travellers arriving from anywhere in Spain - including the Canary and Balearic Islands. The new guidelines will apply to travellers arriving into England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The quarantine rules mean that travellers returning from Spain must not use public transport, go to work, school or public areas, or have visitors except for essential support.

Where employees cannot carry out their role from home, they will therefore be unable to work.

Those returning from Spain will not be automatically eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) during their quarantine period unless they are eligible i.e. displaying coronavirus symptoms. There is further information on the eligibility for SSP here: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay/eligibility

Employers should respect the fact that the quarantine period is a legal requirement and should not encourage their employees to break the law and come to work following their foreign holiday. Where possible, employees may be allowed to work from home throughout their quarantine period.

As before, where their role does not allow this, employers have two options:

  • Deduct the quarantine period from their annual leave allowance. However, this may be unpopular with those that have limited annual leave, particularly as leave may have already been taken to travel; or
  • Inform employees that any period of quarantine will be unpaid.

However employers decide to manage this issue, they must ensure they communicate openly and clearly with employees to try and reach a solution.

As suggested in our previous article, we would continue to urge employers to talk to their employees about the implications of travelling abroad. This situation has highlighted that foreign travel remains unpredictable and rules and restrictions can change very quickly.

Go here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus for the most up to date government guidance on coronavirus.

If you have any questions regarding any of the above, please contact the team at RWA via 01604 709509 or helpdesk@rwagroup.co.uk.

About the author

Lisa joined RWA in 2014 as an e-Learning Assistant, designing training material for the Aviva Development Zone e-learning platform.

Her role as Head of Content and Communications involves the editorship of RWA Insight. It also includes reviewing e-learning content as well as providing proofreading, copywriting and standards support across the business.

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