Businesses are about to embark on a journey into more uncharted territory, as foreign travel begins to open up and employees begin taking holidays abroad again. How are employers expected to handle any quarantine periods that may be imposed upon their employees upon their return to the UK?
Currently, there is a legal requirement for any individual entering the UK to quarantine for 14 days, which could potentially see employees being absent from their place of work for up to a month.
It is vital that employers 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.
We would advise that, if employees are able to work from home, then employers should allow home working for the quarantine period, ensuring they have a robust Working from Home policy and that all employees are made aware of this requirement. However, if an employee has a role that does not lend itself to working from home, what are they expected to do?
It appears that employers have the following options:
- Inform employees that any quarantine period will be deducted from their annual leave allowance. However, this may be unpopular with those that have limited annual leave, or;
- Inform employees that any period of quarantine will be unpaid.
We do not believe that the quarantine period can be treated as sick leave as this currently only applies to self-isolation should an individual or someone in their household be displaying symptoms of Covid-19. Therefore there would be no entitlement to an SSP claim.
We would also caution against treating the leave as unauthorised absence, which would potentially trigger a disciplinary procedure, as this could be considered as encouraging employees to breach their quarantine period.
However employers decide to manage this issue, they must ensure they communicate the introduction of any new rule as clearly and as quickly as possible. We would also urge you to talk to your employees about the implications of travelling abroad with the quarantine period in place. Open and honest conversation might see employees put aside any thoughts on foreign travel until restrictions are lifted.
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