Guidance for employers
Earlier this month new regulations were put in place under which it is now required that upon arrival back into the UK, holidaymakers and travellers will be required to undergo a 14-day period of post-travel quarantine. With many businesses now returning to the workplace or with many jobs not being able to offer home working, it’s understandable that some employers are concerned by the impact this new regulation may have on their business.
What actions does a traveller entering the country need to take?
When entering the UK, a traveller must fill in a passenger locator form, providing details on how they can be contacted and where they will be staying during their 14 day quarantine. Other than to seek medical assistance or to obtain food or supplies (that couldn’t otherwise be obtained), it is stated that travellers are not to leave the house, ruling out travelling to their place of work altogether.
Does the quarantine start as soon as they land back in the UK?
Yes. The quarantine period will begin as soon as the traveller lands in the UK, they are advised to travel directly to their place of quarantine, taking public transport if necessary (with relevant social distancing measures observed during their journey). The quarantine period will end at the end of the 14th day after their arrival or in any cases where the traveller is due to depart from the UK once again, their quarantine will end upon the date of their departure.
Are there any exemptions from self-isolation/quarantine?
The Government has provided a long list of exemptions that can be found here but we have summarised some of the more employment specific exemptions below:
- People who are UK based but work in another country and have to travel regularly (once a week) for their job role;
- People who live outside the UK but instead have to travel into the UK on a regular basis as a part of their job role;
- Health care workers who need to travel into the UK to provide essential healthcare;
- Couriers/drivers whose routes/roles involve the international carriage of passengers or goods.
Can my employees work during their 14 day quarantine?
If an employee is able to work remotely and fulfil their duties from their home or place of quarantine then yes, you are able to require them to work still. In any scenario where working would take the employee out of their place of isolation then this would not be permitted and the employee would in fact be committing a criminal offence. It’s important to remember that the quarantine period is a legal requirement, with the employee themselves having no choice in the matter rather than it being their refusal to work.
Does this 14 day quarantine impact upon an employee’s annual leave?
The first question some employers may ask is do they have to provide the employee with additional holiday allowance for this 14-day period. In the first instance this would be dependent on the employee’s contract of employment and the business’ holiday policy. As an employer, you would have the option to provide these days at your own discretion or it could be agreed with the employee that this time as taken as unpaid leave also. Unless the employee themselves is unwell or self-isolating with a household member that is showing symptoms, it is unlikely that this would be able to be classed as sickness, with the employee claiming sick pay.
In a similar vein, as an employer you may want to request that the employee use their annual leave entitlement for this 14 day period. This again is dependent on their contract and your business policies about any agreements in which the employer can make reasonable requirements for an employee to take some of their annual leave time. This could however leave the employee in a position where they have insufficient entitlement for the rest of the year, so you may want to consider alternatives.
To get a better understanding of where your business stands in this regard, we’d recommend you contact our team today for further guidance on the matter.
Can I stop my employees from travelling outside of the UK?
It is fairly unreasonable for an employer to dictate how an employee uses their time outside of the workplace, including their decisions to travel and their choice of destinations. While you cannot prevent them from leaving the country, you do have some level of control over an employee’s ability to take annual leave, approving or declining requests where you see fit. In any case where a business were to cancel a holiday that has already been approved for an employee, they would be required to provide both a reasonable notice period for this cancellation but also a valid case for the cancellation.
We understand that despite a lot of businesses having now returned to the workplace there is still a great deal of uncertainty, with new regulations and changes being implemented on a regular basis (and often at short notice). Here at oneHR we are on a mission to help as many businesses navigate this current pandemic (and the following fallout) with confidence. If you have any questions, queries or concerns, please contact the oneHR team today.
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