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What do the UK travel quarantine rules mean for employers and employees?

by Alan Price, employment law expert and CEO of BrightHR

As an extension to the current rules on self-isolation, a new requirement will see people having to spend 14 days in quarantine after travelling into the UK from another country. This measure is expected to come into place from 8 June 2020, despite receiving criticism from the tourism industry who have asked for some relaxations to be considered.

The Government currently advises self-isolation in several circumstances to avoid the spread of coronavirus including:

  • if someone has symptoms
  • someone living in the same household has symptoms
  • or if someone receives notification that they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive.

The self-isolation extension to situations where someone arrives in the UK includes those who live in the UK who are returning from a holiday. This is set to pose a problem for employers as it will add an extra two weeks’ absence onto any annual leave period.

There are many ways employers can approach this. Employers who consider they will not be able to manage this length of leave can simply refuse a holiday request. However, before doing so, it is advisable to check why the employee wishes to travel abroad as some reasons may be more valid than others.

If the employee is to travel, employers should then consider how the isolation period is to be spent. If the employee can work from home, then full pay will be maintained.

Some employers may decide that they are content to allow the extra period to be taken as annual leave if the end of the leave year is in sight and the employee still has a lot of holidays to take. Employers should remember they can also enforce annual leave provided they give notice which is twice as much as the length of leave to be enforced. In the case of a two-week isolation period, four weeks’ notice would be needed.

If no other arrangement is made, the employee will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if they meet eligibility criteria still in place due to extensions to the law on sick pay.