Post-travel quarantine plan and what this means for your employees
From 8 June 2020, new regulations came into force requiring people arriving in the UK to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. The relevant period will end on either the 14th day after the day they arrived in the UK or the individual’s departure from England, whichever is earlier.
Travellers must inform the Government of the location where they will quarantine throughout the required period and must go straight to the location on arrival.
Failure to adhere to the new regulations is a criminal offence.
Are there any exemptions?
The self-isolation rules apply to UK residents and visitors travelling to the UK. However, quarantine is not required for those travelling to the UK from within the Common Travel Area, that is:
- The UK
- The Republic of Ireland
- The Channel Islands
- The Isle of Man
In addition to the above, individuals travelling to the UK to conduct essential work will also be exempt from self-isolation. Such work includes - but is not limited to - the below:
- Seasonal agricultural workers
- Drivers of goods vehicles or public service vehicles
- Postal workers
- Pilots and crew
- Crown servants or Government contractors travelling to the UK for essential Government work
- Registered healthcare professionals travelling to the UK to provide essential healthcare
Can employers require employees to work during their quarantine period?
The new regulation is a legal requirement and failure to self-isolate is a criminal offence. Random spot checks will be conducted and breaching the rules can result in a fine of up to £1,000. Employers must therefore not require or allow an employee to attend the workplace during this period. However, the regulations do not prevent an individual from working if they can do so from home. If an employee can work from home, they should be paid in full in accordance with their contract of employment.
What if working from home isn’t possible?
In the event that remote working is not possible, employers should consider the following options for employees required to self-isolate:
- Unpaid leave
- Paid leave (forced or voluntary)
- If an employer chooses to enforce annual leave during this period, they must give double the notice they expect the employee to take as leave e.g. if an employer is requiring a period of 5 days leave, the employee must be given 10 days’ notice
Whilst the Government is yet to confirm the position on statutory sick pay during this time, I anticipate that if an individual returns to the UK and develops symptoms of the virus or contracts the virus itself, they would be entitled to receive statutory sick pay at a rate of £95.85 per week.
How soon after the 14-day period can an individual return to work?
After the quarantine period, providing an individual does not have any coronavirus symptoms, they can stop self-isolating and return to following the rules in place in the UK. At present, the message remains that those who can work from home should continue doing so. For employees unable to work from home, they can return to the workplace, ensuring that they adhere to the Government guidelines.
As we know Government guidelines are changing constantly so we are expecting further information regarding the sick pay provisions and the applications of the new rules. Also we are advising that employers must be clear with staff that are returning from abroad what they must do and update any relevant policies.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.