Lawrence Stephens

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What pay are employees entitled to if self-isolating after their holiday abroad?

August 2020

From 8 June 2020, Government Regulations (the “Regulations”) require most people travelling to the Common Travel Area (UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) to quarantine for 14 days. What does this mean and how do these regulations affect your workforce?

What is self-quarantine under the Regulations? 

The Regulations include a list of countries known as the “Travel Corridor” available here. On return from a non-corridor country, which at the date of writing includes France and Croatia, a traveller is required to self-isolate for 14 days. This means that they cannot leave the place that they live or are staying for the first 14 days that they arrive in the Common Travel Area. The Government has issued guidance on how to self-isolate (available here). 

Travellers are required to complete a passenger locator form within 48 hours prior to their arrival in the Common Travel Area. 

If they do not comply with the Regulations, travellers could face a fine of £1,000 for failing to self-isolate and up to £3,200 if they fail to provide passenger information required under the Regulations more than once, they may also be refused entry to the Common Travel Area if they are not a resident. The passenger locator form is available here.

The Government have removed countries from the list at little or no notice leaving travellers rushing home from trips early or finding themselves required to self-isolate on their return. There is a limited list of exceptions to the requirement to self-isolate and going to work is not on the list.

Is an employee in quarantine on their return from overseas entitled to pay?

Before 8 June 2020, there was no requirement to self-isolate on return from overseas unless an individual or a member of their household was showing symptoms of coronavirus. So where no symptoms were displayed, an employee would go to work and be paid as normal. An employer could require that an employee stay at home, but the employee would still be entitled to normal pay.  

Since 8 June 2020, there is a question as to whether the mandatory requirement to self-isolate may cause an employee to fall under the new incapacity rules and be entitled to SSP. 

If an employee can work from home while in self-isolation they should do so and they will be entitled to full pay. 

Where an employee is unable to work from home, the position is less clear.  If an employee is unable to work, the implied right to be paid does not apply. An employee returning from a non-corridor country is arguably not unable to work, but prevented from working due to a mandatory requirement under the Regulations. Any reduction in pay by an employer may be considered unlawful depending on the circumstances. An employee is unlikely to be successful in arguing this if they willingly travel to non-corridor countries.

What arrangements can you have with employees returning from non-corridor countries?

  • Employees could take their self-isolation period as additional annual leave. Although this is probably not preferable as they cannot leave their house during their isolation period, they would be paid in line with their annual leave entitlements. 
  • Where possible an employer could arrange that they work from home. The employee would be entitled to its usual pay subject to anything agreed to the contrary.
  • Where an employee cannot work from home the employer may be entitled to treat the employee as on sick leave rather than suspension. It is not clear at this stage in the Statutory Sick Pay Regulations (“SSP Regulations”) that this is the case. The SSP Regulations are being updated regularly, but concerning coronavirus they only apply to people self-isolating due to symptoms of coronavirus, that they, someone they live with or have been in contact with are experiencing. 

The latest Government Guidance for employment rights when self-isolating after returning to the UK issued on 14 August 2020 is available here.

Individual circumstances will impact how the Regulations and the SSP Regulations apply. We are happy to discuss these with you.