On 25 July 2020, the UK Government made it a requirement that people returning from Spain to the UK need to self-isolate for 14 days or face a fine.
As this may affect people’s ability to go back to work, Darwin Gray’s employment & HR team has set out some FAQs for employers wanting to know what to do in relation to staff who have travelled to Spain and need to isolate, are stuck abroad, or are planning to travel to Spain, despite the restrictions.
Do I have to pay staff in these circumstances?
If an employee can work from home during their self-isolation period, then they are entitled to their normal pay. If they cannot work from home, or they are stuck abroad due to cancelled flights and cannot work remotely, then they are not legally entitled to be paid. However, you may use your discretion in these circumstances by taking a lenient approach and pay your staff, even if they cannot work.
Unless staff develop symptoms of an illness or are required to self-isolate as a result of someone in their household or someone they have come into contact with having symptoms, then they will not be entitled to statutory sick pay or enhanced sick pay (depending on the provisions of your sick pay policy).
If an employee has enough annual leave left you could ask them to take extra holiday at the end of their original holiday period. This means they would receive holiday pay for time spent in self-isolation/stuck abroad.
Can I stop my staff from travelling to Spain?
You can cancel pre-approved leave if you have a proper business reason for doing so – without this you could be accused of breaching the implied duty of trust and confidence which exists between you as employer and employee. If you need staff in work in order to manage workloads, and travelling to Spain would prevent them from working, then this is likely to be a proper business reason for cancelling annual leave. You will need to serve notice that is at least the same length as the period of holiday to be taken. You may also have to compensate the employee for any non-recoverable holidays costs that they have incurred.
Remember – staff can carry over holiday to the next two holiday years if it was not reasonably possible for them to use up all of their annual leave entitlement due to the effects of COVID-19.
You should also consider that not everyone will be travelling to Spain for a holiday. Some staff may be travelling due to difficult personal circumstances, such as for a funeral, or to care for an ill and elderly friend or relative. If you do decide to make exceptions in these circumstances, ensure that your approach is clear and consistent in order to avoid staff grievances.
If an employee still chooses to travel despite a reasonable instruction not to do so and they are subsequently required to quarantine, then they could be subjected to disciplinary action.
What if a self-isolating employee turns up to work?
As an employer, you have a duty to take reasonable care of the health and safety of your employees. Therefore, you must protect your staff and ensure that self-isolating employees who have returned from Spain do not turn up for work.
They may want to come to work because they cannot afford not to be paid. However, you should remind them that, whilst you are sympathetic to their situation, it is a criminal offence not to self-isolate and ask them to return home immediately. If they refuse to return home, then inform them that their behaviour may amount to misconduct and as a result they may face disciplinary proceedings.