HOLIDAYS - 27.08.2020

We can’t accommodate the 14-day quarantine period

An employee wants to travel to a country that isn’t on the government’s travel corridor list. If they go, they’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days on their return. As they can’t work from home, can you refuse their annual leave request?

Travel corridor list

Travel corridors are countries and territories you can travel to without having to self-isolate on your return to the UK. The lists are regularly updated and can change at short notice.

In England, people who return from a country that isn’t on the travel corridor list must self-isolate for at least 14 days (see The next step ).

Note. There are differences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A tricky issue

If an employee can work from home, the 14-day quarantine period shouldn’t be a problem for the employer. But what if the employee can’t work from home?

Whilst it might be tempting to simply refuse the employee’s annual leave request on the basis that the quarantine period can’t be accommodated, it could cause other problems.

Carry-over risks

For example, where an employee is unable to take their statutory minimum holiday due to reasons related to coronavirus, they now have the statutory right to carry that leave forward for up to two years. We looked at this and the temporary rules in a previous article ( yr.22, iss.9, pg.1 , see The next step ).

Also, it’s possible that an employee could be travelling abroad for non-holiday reasons, e.g. to attend a family funeral or a religious event.

Spell out the options

However, rather than saying “no” what our subscriber could do is explain why they can’t accommodate homeworking during the quarantine period and spell out the options available.

Where an employee must self-isolate and can’t work during that period, they’ve no right to receive any pay. There’s also no right to receive statutory sick pay during the 14-day quarantine period.

Using other leave

Assuming the employee has enough annual leave available in the current holiday year, they could use this to cover the quarantine period.

If they don’t, you could agree to a period of unpaid leave (or a mixture of that and annual leave). Do not allow the employee to use holiday entitlement from the next holiday year. Most employees will reconsider their plans if they won’t be paid.

Tip. If the employee goes away, but has no coronavirus symptoms on their return, do not allow them to return to work early. Not only will they be in breach of control measures, you could put other employees and the public at risk.

Tip. The one exception to the above is where you have asked an employee to travel abroad for work purposes. In this situation, you would be obliged to pay them their full salary during the 14-day quarantine period.

The request could be refused, but that may create other issues, e.g. give rise to a holiday carry over right. Where homeworking isn’t possible during the quarantine period, an employee has no right to be paid or receive statutory sick pay, but they could take annual or unpaid leave. Spell this out and they may well reconsider their plans.

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