Foreign holidays are currently banned, and returning travellers have to quarantine. However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed the government is planning to let people travel abroad soon, potentially from 17th May. You've just got people back to work so you can't afford Covid-19 related absences. Where do you stand? Here we answer six important questions:
1. Can you ask your staff where they are going before you approve their holiday request?
Yes, but first write to employees so that they understand what might happen if they holiday abroad and are asked to self-quarantine afterwards, including what you will pay them. If you use a holiday booking form, include a box for the employee to identify the country or countries they are visiting. Explain why you need to know and where they can find up to date information about overseas travel.
2. Can you tell staff members not to go abroad on holiday?
You can't normally dictate what your employees do in their own time. That includes where they can go on holiday. However, you can discourage them from booking leave until the government has clarified the position on international travel and make it clear they will have to follow any quarantine advice. Remind them that advice may change quickly, possibly while they are abroad.
3. Can you cancel holiday leave to prevent employees from travelling abroad?
Yes, subject to your contract of employment and holiday policy. If those documents are silent on cancelling holidays, the Working Time Regulations allow you to give as much notice as the leave you want your employee to cancel. So, one week's notice to cancel one week's leave. This would be an unpopular move so tread carefully. Only do it if you have a compelling reason. Your employee may ask you to reimburse any cancellation fees and accuse you of acting unreasonably. Explain why you have cancelled their holiday along with when and how they can re-book. Try persuasion before coercion.
4. Must your employees tell you if they are quarantining?
Anyone who is asked to quarantine must self-isolate unless they are exempt from the rules.
Anyone who doesn't report for work must follow your absence reporting procedure. Record their absence as 'authorised' unless they are sick.
5. Can you ask people to continue to work during quarantine?
You can’t ask anyone who is quarantining to return to their workplace and anyone who doesn't self-isolate will commit a criminal offence.
Any member of staff who has to self-quarantine will only be able to work if it is practical and feasible for them to work from home or their quarantine hotel. If they can’t work remotely you must not ask them to return to their workplace. Send them home if they turn up.
6. Do you have to pay employees if they can’t work?
You don’t have to pay them unless they are ill. They won’t be able to claim contractual sick pay unless your contractual terms provide for it.
Anyone who has to quarantine but doesn't have coronavirus symptoms is not entitled to statutory sick pay either.
You don't want people breaking quarantine rules because they cannot afford to lose pay. Consider whether to allow them to use any remaining annual leave or allowing them to make up some or all of their ten days’ quarantine when they return to work.