How to manage employees’ post-holiday quarantine

As we head into holiday season, the English rain pours down on us and lockdown rules begin to feel more relaxed, many people are starting to think about venturing overseas for a holiday.

 But what are the implications of this for you and your staff?

Depending on where in the world your employees are heading, they may have to quarantine for 14 days on their return to England. The assumption is that they will have to do this unless they are going to a country that is exempt.

There is detailed information online listing the countries that are exempt, referred to as “travel corridors”… but please note that this situation is continually changing and therefore fairly unpredictable.

For example, many travellers have recently been caught out as Spain was removed from the exempt list on Sunday.

Staff members with booked holiday

If a member of staff has already made a holiday request and had this approved, you can ask them where they’re going to help you plan cover for both the holiday and potential quarantine period.

If they will now be subject to quarantine, you cannot pressure or force them to change their holiday plans or punish them for not doing so.

However, you can speak to them about the potential issues arising including: (i) the operational difficulties that the quarantine might cause to the business and (ii) the financial difficulties that the quarantine might cause to them – as quarantine is unpaid.

This way they can make an educated decision about how they wish to proceed. Some staff may be willing to modify or cancel their plans, particularly if their travel insurance allows them to do so.

Staff members requesting holiday time off

You can ask all employees who want to make holiday requests to notify you of:

  • the dates they wish to take holiday
  • whether they intend to go overseas
  • the country/countries they intend to visit
  • whether they are currently required to quarantine on their return.

You may reject a holiday request where the holiday will necessarily be followed by quarantine and you cannot cover the time off work.

Pay during quarantine

You are not obliged to pay staff during a period of quarantine because it is different to self-isolation, although it will feel the same to the staff member.

You will be obliged to pay statutory sick pay during a period of quarantine only if the staff member is self-isolating because they live with someone with coronavirus symptoms (in either case you should ask for a 111 isolation notice), is self-isolating because they have been in contact with someone with symptoms and have been told to self-isolate (in which case you should ask for the notification from the NHS/ public health body to confirm this) or is shielding (in which case you should have a letter to confirm this).

You will be obliged to pay your normal sick pay (whether contractual sick pay or statutory sick pay during a period of quarantine only if the staff member is ill (in which case you should ask them to comply with your normal procedures for reporting sickness and submitting sick notes) or self-isolating because they have coronavirus symptoms (in which case you should ask for a 111 isolation notice).

You could, if you wish, agree that the employee may use some of their holiday entitlement to cover all or part of the quarantine period. You are not obliged to agree to this, for example, if doing so would cause you a financial strain in that you’re paying out holiday pay plus cover through agency/overtime for a prolonged period.

Working from home

As with other forms of self-isolation, you can ask staff to work from home if it is reasonably practicable for them to do so. In these circumstances, you would pay them for the hours worked.

Talking to employees before they travel

You may wish to remind staff to comply with the government’s guidance on travel, including the requirement to complete the passenger locator form, which is available online.

This means that they may be subject to randomised screening by the government, such as telephone calls to check that they’re at home during the quarantine period.

As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.