Currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's advice on travel abroad is that people should not do so unless it is essential.
The government announced that from Monday 8 June there are new rules in place for entering the UK because of COVID-19. The rules apply to residents and visitors and mean that everyone will:
- need to provide their journey and contact details when they travel/ return to the UK
- not be allowed to leave the place they are staying for the first 14 days they are in/ return to the UK
The purpose of the quarantine period is to assist with infection control, and NHS organisations should continue to follow their existing infection control procedures. The government has published a limited list of exemptions for exceptional circumstances, to be used where employers require the exempt employee to return to work urgently in advance of completing the 14-day quarantine period.
All requests for annual leave need to be submitted to the manager for approval, in line with local leave policies, who will take a number of considerations into account, such as:
- the impact of the request on maintaining service delivery
- the need for employees who may have worked hard throughout the crisis to have time for rest and recuperation.
Until now it has not been appropriate for the employer to ask where the employee’s leave will be taken. As a result of the new quarantine requirements, it is now imperative that when an employee submits a request for leave that involves travelling abroad, they are reminded of the government’s advice to avoid all non-essential travel and the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on their return, should they be traveling overseas.
Some countries may also require travellers to quarantine on arrival, which would impact on the expected length of stay and should be taken into account by the employee when booking leave.
The situation now is that employees booking travel overseas from this point forward will be going abroad fully aware of the quarantine requirements on re-entering the UK. Accordingly, overseas travel should not be booked before an employee has agreed the duration of the leave required with their employer to ensure that they can comply with the quarantine measures on their return to the UK.
When considering a request for leave, employers should ensure their policy is clear, applied fairly and is reasonable in relation to individual circumstances. Any blanket approach to leave requests will need to be considered in the context of an equality impact assessment, taking into consideration the impact of a local policy on BME, as well as overseas staff. Employers are encouraged to work in partnership with local trade unions to ensure that local policies are applied fairly and consistently.
Options to consider for how the quarantine period could be treated may include:
- The use of appropriate paid or unpaid leave to cover the quarantine period eg
- take additional paid annual leave (from their usual leave allowance)
- take unpaid annual leave
- take special leave (paid/unpaid)
- whether the employee is able to work from home
- making up some or all of the 14 days’ leave over a period of time through working additional hours/shifts over their normal contracted hours.
- where unable to work from home whether temporary reassignment of appropriate work would be possible so that they could work from home.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this issue so for those employees who cannot work from home during quarantine, employers should consider using a combination of some or all of the different types of leave options shown above and give sympathetic consideration to certain circumstances which could include:
- an employee who has extenuating circumstances such as a family funeral abroad
- pre-booked holidays that cannot be cancelled without incurring financial cost (ie insurers will not reimburse cost) that were arranged before quarantine could have been envisaged
- pre-booked holidays that the tour operator has not cancelled but has instead rescheduled on fixed dates which, if cancelled by the customer, would be at financial cost to them.
Please note, anyone who has had to travel for the purpose of their job, and has to quarantine on their return, would be entitled to continue to receive normal full pay.
Overseas recruitment and quarantine
Further guidance is being looked at regarding the implications for international recruitment and the approach to newly arrived staff and how they take up employment.