Staff quarantine after holiday abroad

Holiday season is upon us, and with the introduction of a traffic light system on the 17th of May, international travel is back on the table but, employers should again prepare for the headache of dealing with staff absence due to post-travel quarantine.

Since the publication of a ‘green list’, thousands of UK holiday makers have flocked to Portugal to make the most of their time off work, only for the rules to change a few weeks later. Echoing the chaos that we faced in July 2020, when travel to Spain yoyoed from green to amber.

Plan ahead

In this situation, communication with the employees regarding international travel at the earliest opportunity is very important.

Whilst employers cannot stop an employee from choosing to travel to a particular destination during annual leave, you can remind staff of the risk of quarantine being imposed on their return which may impact on their ability to work, entitlement to be paid, and could initiate disciplinary proceedings.

The government has stated that we should be avoiding amber list countries. Driven by this guidance, employers may well wish to announce to employees that they should not travel to amber list countries for holidays and that they must seek permission from management to do so.

Consider working from home

Where it is possible for an employee to work from home whilst self-isolating, that should, of course, provide a solution which allows the employee to continue to work and be paid. Employers may have more confidence in these groups travelling abroad for their annual leave. But for those who can’t work remotely, employers may wish to consider being more accommodating of requests to cancel, shorten or move their annual leave to a different time so as to avoid the operational pressures of being short-staffed due to post travel quarantine.

With the guidance from the government ever changing, employers should anticipate sudden changes in the ‘green’ and ‘amber’ lists and record the destinations of any staff overseas accordingly to enable as much time as possible for reactive planning.

Be consistent:

A consistent approach is the best way of avoiding grievances about different treatment.  Whilst it may be tempting to be sympathetic to those caught short in Portugal recently, bear in mind the precedent this sets for other team members who still want their dose of sunshine.

Be clear from the outset about your policies on pay during quarantine, cancelling holidays due to changes in travel restrictions, and disciplinary action where an unreasonable risk is taken for the purpose of a holiday if prior discussions are not held before boarding flights.

Anyone who has to quarantine but doesn’t have coronavirus symptoms isn’t entitled to SSP. This will leave many employees out of pocket, and you may have to consider asking staff to:

  • Take additional paid annual leave
  • Make up the 10 days’ leave over a period of time, or
  • Take unpaid leave.

If you choose to provide options, make sure that choice is offered consistently.

For now, staycations remain the safest form of holidays, so encourage them where you can. Should challenges occur in managing staff holidays contact The HR Experts for help.

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