If you've been near a screen recently, you can't fail to have seen the UK's decision to restrict all non-essential travel to Spain (including the Balearic and Canary Islands), as well as imposing a 14 day quarantine period for those returning from these destinations. With reports that COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise in some areas of Europe, it's possible that travellers returning to the UK from other countries may soon face a similar fate.
But what are the rights of those employees returning from abroad and what should employers do about staff who can't work because they have to quarantine?
What should employers do if an employee is required to quarantine?
At present, employees will not have any right to statutory sick pay if they are required to quarantine unless they become sick during that time. Likewise, where an employee is unable to undertake any work for their employer owing to quarantine, it is unlikely that they will have any entitlement to be paid. For those who can work from home whilst quarantined this is unlikely to be an issue. But for those who can't, what approach should employers take?
If you have staff who have recently travelled abroad before any quarantine announcement was made, you may wish to take a pragmatic approach. This could involve allowing a further period of annual leave to cover the quarantine period or reaching agreement with the employee that they can take some unpaid leave.
You could also consider placing the employee on furlough - provided the employee has already been furloughed in the past, it may be possible to put them back on furlough for the period of quarantine and claim funds through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It is not yet clear whether employers would be reimbursed for this but, at present, there is no outright ban or prohibition on taking this course of action. Employers would need to make sure that they comply with all other requirements of the scheme (including the need for a furlough agreement to be in place with the employee).
You can find out more details about those who would be eligible to be furloughed on our Workbox Furlough: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme page.
What about employees' future travel plans?
Employers may be wondering – what about employees who are looking to book holidays now, knowing that other destinations may soon be added to the list of countries where quarantine restrictions on return might be in place?
With this in mind, employers may decide to write to their staff now setting out clearly what will happen in that scenario, including any entitlement to pay. Employers should also think carefully about how to deal with any staff who go abroad already knowing that they will have to quarantine on their return to the UK and that they will be unable to work during that period. This should be distinguished from those who go abroad only to find out whilst they are away that they will need to quarantine when they return to the UK.
If you are looking for specific advice or need help in preparing any communications to staff, please get in touch with your usual Brodies contact.
Where to find more information
You can read our earlier blog for more information on UK quarantine rules and on EU travel restrictions.
More information in relation to Coronavirus and holidays as well as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is also available on Workbox, our online HR and employment law resource. We have made all of our Coronavirus pages free to view, regardless of whether you are a current Workbox user, and you can access them here.
We have also recently recorded a podcast on employee holidays which you can listen to by clicking here.