With non-essential travel now allowed in England to ‘green list’ countries, it is essential that business’s review and update their holiday procedures to accommodate the needs of their employers whilst considering the health and safety of the workplace.
Employers will need to update their holiday policy to cover the following:
- Employees to keep the business informed of when and where they are travelling to
- Employer to outline the current government guidance on travel, including the quarantine requirements
- Employer to explain how quarantine periods will be recorded for absence purposes
- Employer to explain whether quarantine will be paid or unpaid
Those who visit countries on the ‘amber’ or ‘red’ list are legally required to quarantine on their arrival back to the UK and employers cannot request that they return to the workplace during this time.
If the employee can work from home, then they should be allowed to do so while receiving their normal rate of pay, providing that the employer consents to this.
If an employee cannot work from home, then the quarantine period should be discussed with them before their holiday is authorised.
Usually, the choices for the quarantine period will be annual leave or unpaid leave, or a combination.
This can present problems, however, if an employee does not have enough leave to cover both their holiday and quarantine period. This may tempt employees to call in sick to receive pay. A business may thus decide to request reasonable evidence of incapacity such as an isolation note from NHS 111 if an employer calls in sick. Statutory Sick pay is not available to those who are quarantining after a holiday without Covid-19 symptoms.
We thus suggest that you update your policy to warn employees that if they cannot work from home during quarantine and do not have enough annual leave to cover this period, then it is likely they will be unpaid during this time.
It would be difficult to ask employees not to travel to certain countries or reject holiday requests as this could result in claims of discrimination, such as nationality, or breach of working time regulations. We would instead suggest that the holiday policy includes a requirement to provide information of the destination of travel before a holiday request is granted and that employees understand the quarantine period and consequences of this.
Work travel has been permitted since 17 May 2021 where government guidance allowed international travel without a reasonable excuse.
If an employer is requesting that an employee is to travel for work, an agreement will need to be reached in the working arrangements and pay during this period and they will still need to follow the quarantine requirements of the destination.
The employer needs to ensure that the destination is not on the list of areas that the Foreign Commonwealth Office has advised against travelling to. This would breach the employer’s health and safety obligations.
An employer must consider whether it is necessary for the employee to travel and ask themselves whether the business could be conducted remotely.
If you would like to discuss any points in this article further or are looking for legal advice relating to holiday or absence procedures whether as an employee or an employer, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP Employment team on 01603 677077.