The ever-changing regulations regarding who has to self-isolate upon return from what country has thrown up many questions for businesses and individuals alike.
The list of countries from which you have to self-isolate is constantly changing and the decisions are often announced very quickly.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has issued new guidance for employees and employers on employment rights when self-isolating on return to the UK from a country subject to quarantine restrictions.
Currently, all travel corridors have been suspended effective 18 January 2021. The current, up to date information on travel quarantine rules can be found here. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors
If you arrive in England from anywhere outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man you will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
Working from home
Where possible, employers should allow employees to work from home during the 10 day self-isolation period.
Taking annual/unpaid leave
Employees may be able to take annual leave to cover the period of their self-isolation, subject to certain entitlement requirements. Employers may also be able to tell their employees to take annual leave provided adequate notice is given.
Employees may also be entitled to take annual leave if they are forced to travel to deal with family or dependent emergencies. If that is not possible, employees should be allowed to take unpaid leave.
Where a new country liable for quarantine is announced
Employees should talk to their employer as soon as possible to discuss options. Clearly, the employer having a clear policy for all staff in such situations will be beneficial to both parties concerned.
Employees will not be entitled to sick pay if they are required to self-isolate following travel abroad. Sick pay is only available where an employee is actually ill and evidence of this is usually required by way of doctors’ notes.
When dismissing staff, employers must do it fairly. Valid reasons include capability, conduct or redundancy. Even if employers have a valid reason, the dismissal is only fair if it’s a reasonable response in the circumstances and they follow a fair procedure.
Dismissal should always be a last resort and employers should consider alternative arrangements first, such as agreeing with employees to take annual leave or unpaid leave. Where possible, employers should explore the option for the employee to work from home or to agree work that can be completed from home. Employers who dismiss an employee because they have had to self-isolate following travel abroad may be liable for unfair dismissal.
A clear and detailed policy issued to all employees covering travel and restrictions will assist in such cases. A policy would provide certainty to all parties concerned and will make it clear to employees what is to be expected if they are caught out by new restrictions.
For any assistance in creating a suitable Travel Policy for your business, please contact our Head of Employment Ilinca Mardarescu