COVID-19: Employees, Holidays And Quarantine Restricted Countries

Many business owners are wondering what to do about employees who are going on holiday to quarantine restricted countries. So this week, I asked Caroline Robertson of ActifHR to give us more information on this. Take it away Caroline ...

Some employees have been booking holidays abroad with the opening of air bridges last month, knowing that when they returned, they would not need to self-isolate. Since then however, Spain, a popular holiday destination has been removed from the list of 50 plus exempted counties. Belgium and France have also been added to this list with other countries in Europe and worldwide to likely follow.

This raises an important question for employers: "what can you do if an employee is booked or wishes to book to go on holiday to a restricted country?"

An employer should put together a COVID-19 risk assessment and return to work plan if you are planning to return workers back to the workplace. The risk assessment identifies the measures you are taking to control the risks of COVID-19 in your workplace to ensure that you are continuing to provide a safe place of work.

Any company with over 50 workers is expected to publish the risk assessment on their website and put up a notice that the assessment has been done. However, how can you continue to maintain a safe workplace if an employee has just returned from a country which is no longer part of an air bridge or is affected by COVID-19?

"Put in place guidelines before they go!"

Be sure to clarify the situation before employees go on holiday with guidance on what is expected; this will remove any ambiguity later. The guidance needs to be clear that if an employee travels to a restricted country, against the company and Foreign Office advice, what will happen.

The options are as follows:

- If their role is not something that can be done from home, or they are needed in the office, they may have no other option but to take their period of self-isolation as holiday or unpaid leave

- You should be clear that if they are intending to go to a restricted country, you do not have to grant their holiday request

- However, if they insist on going, it could be a failure to follow a reasonable instruction which could, in extreme cases, result in disciplinary action being taken. Hopefully it would not be come to that, but it is important to set out the rules

Remember, current Government guidelines say that you do not have to pay an employee who is needed in the office and it is not agreed that they can work from home. It maybe that as an employer you are able to let an employee work from home in these circumstances, and if this is the case the guidance you issue may put in this option.

As an employer, I suggest you issue temporary holiday and quarantine guidance for your employees. This will prevent potential issues further down the line.

"Thank you Caroline!"

If anything she has written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to learn more about your employees going on holiday to COVID-19 quarantine restricted countries, call her on 01327 317537, leave a comment, below or visit the ActifHR website for more.

If you feel inspired to find out more about anything I've said here, do call me on 01908 774320 or leave a comment below and I'll be in touch as soon as I can.