Summer holidays and quarantine: do you have a plan in place?
Since 17 May 2021, red, amber and green list rules have been in place for individuals entering England from overseas.
All employees travelling to England from overseas must provide negative COVID-19 tests in the three days before travel and complete passenger locator forms. In addition, the red, amber and green list rules impose imposing three levels of quarantine obligations (subject to some exceptions):
- Employees who have been in or passed through a country or territory on the red list in the 10 days before their arrival in England must stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days after their arrival and take a COVID-19 test on days 2 and 8 of quarantine. The quarantine hotel and tests must be booked before arrival in the UK;
- Employees who have been in or passed through a country or territory on the amber list in the 10 days before their arrival in England must quarantine for 10 days on arrival at home or in the place they are staying. COVID-19 tests must be taken on days 2 and 8 of quarantine which need to be booked prior to arrival. Employees may be able to reduce their quarantine period to 5 days if they pay for a private COVID-19 test under the Test to Release scheme;
- Employees who have been in or passed through a country or territory on the green list in the 10 days before their arrival in England must take a COVID-19 test on or before the second day after their arrival. They do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.
Countries may move between lists if conditions change with little or no notice of that change. This means that employees who have booked holiday this Summer to countries on the green list may discover, shortly before or during their trip, that their country of destination has been moved to, for example, the amber list. This was recently the case for Portugal, which moved from the green list to the amber list on 8 June 2021 with just a few days’ notice. Unless they are able to cut short their trip and return before the change takes effect, employees will then unexpectedly need to self-isolate on their return.
Summer holidays and quarantine
So, do you have a plan in place to deal with situations like this if they arise?
Communication with employees will be key. The plan for dealing with quarantine, whether expected or unexpected, should be clear and should be communicated with employees. Ideally, this communication should take place now, before the next Government review of red, amber and green list countries.
Issues to consider include, for example:
- How will anticipated periods of quarantine be dealt with – for example if an employee requests annual leave and informs the employer that they are planning to travel to a country on the amber list? Although the Government advises against travel to countries on the amber list for holiday, it is not unlawful.
- How will unexpected periods of quarantine be dealt with – for example if an employee books a holiday to a country on a green list which changes to amber at short notice while they are abroad, and this delays their expected date of return to work? Will the approach differ if the change takes place after the employee has booked their holiday, but before they travel?
- Will the Company’s approach differ if an employee books a holiday to a country on a green list which changes to amber at short notice; or if an employee books a holiday to an amber country knowing that they will have to self-isolate on their return?
- Will employees be encouraged to tell the employer where they are planning to travel to, so that periods of quarantine can be discussed?
- What will the employer’s approach be where a period of quarantine is expected by an employee but not by the employer – for example, if an employee knows that they will have to quarantine on their return because they are travelling to an amber list country but does not inform the employer when requesting annual leave?
- Can employees work from home during self-isolation? Where employees can work from home, this is likely to be a solution for both the employer and the employee. However, this will not always be possible.
- If the employee cannot work from home, will they be able to cover any quarantine period by using their annual leave? This may mean the employer agreeing annual leave for a longer block than would normally be allowed under a holiday policy. What will happen if the employee does not have enough remaining annual leave entitlement to cover the quarantine period? Will the employee take the time as unpaid leave?
The plan should also include a clear message to employees that self-isolation and quarantine rules must be complied with. Employees who breach quarantine requirements commit an offence and may be fined up to £10,000. Random checks will be undertaken to ensure compliance. The Home Office has announced a service enabling individuals self-isolating at home to be visited by staff engaged on behalf of the NHS Test and Trace Service.
Finally, when dealing with issues surrounding holiday and quarantine, employers should ensure that there is a consistent approach. Managers should be up to date with the Company’s plan and ensure that any decisions are applied consistently.
18 June 2021
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