Dealing with quarantine restrictions
In recent weeks we have seen the government have announced changes to quarantine rules for those returning to the UK, which requires them to self-isolate for two weeks upon return.
Some employees will have been unaware of this prior to travelling whilst others will be considering what to do about future trips that are planned. So how should an employer respond when an employee is unable to return to the office following their agreed period of annual leave?
The government are stating that workers should not be penalised for self-isolating and employees are expected to be flexible. Employees are not currently entitled to claim statutory sick pay if they are self-isolating after returning to the UK and there is no legal entitlement for employees to be paid full pay so what are the options?
- Despite there being no requirement to do so, you can choose to pay your employees, or you may decide only to pay those who have travel restrictions imposed whilst they were on holiday or to pay those that have travelled under extenuating circumstances, such as to attend a funeral or to visit a sick relative. You must however ensure that you set out clear and consistent rules to avoid claims of discrimination.
- Can the employee work from home? If they are unable to carry out their usual role could they carry out other duties from home?
- Consider furlough. Employees can now be furloughed for one week at a time providing they have been previously furloughed. Remember however that from 1st August, the scheme changes and employers will be required to contribute towards NI and pension contributions with increased contributions required in September and October. The furlough scheme ends on 31st
- It may be reasonable to ask employees to take extended annual leave. Check your employment contracts which may contain provisions which allow you to enforce annual leave. If the contract does not permit this, you will need to gain agreement from the employee.
- Unpaid leave could also be permitted but again this needs to be discussed with the employee taking their circumstances into consideration.
- In the absence of extended annual leave or unpaid leave, then the absence could be recorded as unauthorised potentially resulting in disciplinary action. Employers need to tread carefully if selecting this option however as a breach of self-isolation rules amounts to a criminal offence and it may be unfair to discipline the employee for complying with the law.
It is clear that quarantine rules can be introduced at extremely short notice in countries that currently have agreed air bridges therefore employers need to be prepared and have policies in place to deal with this issue.
For further advice please contact Highfield HR on 01685 336097