Last updated 25.9.20
The government's decision to add France to the UK's quarantine list on Friday 14 August caused holiday makers to make a mad dash for home to avoid restrictions. Estimated to have affected 500,000 British holidaymakers, those who did not arrive back in the UK before the 4am deadline on Saturday 15 August 2020, will need to self-isolate for 14 days or face fines.
Ministers have stressed how important it is to show vigilance and impose restrictions where necessary to protect the UK population from infection. Any countries that show high rates of new COVID-19 cases, are rapidly added to the quarantine list. As France is the second-most popular holiday destination for British tourists after Spain and with both countries now on the quarantine list, these restrictions will have affected thousands of travellers and ultimately their employers.
Travel Corridors & Countries No Longer Exempt From Quarantine
An all too familiar term now, travel corridors describes a list of those countries and territories which are exempt from quarantine when arriving from or returning to the UK. Countries that exhibit high rates of COVID-19 cases are rapidly excluded from this list. Travellers who have visited or made a transit stop in any of these excluded countries, are required to immediately quarantine themselves upon their return to the UK, by self-isolating for 14 days.
A transit stop is a stop where passengers can get on or off. It can apply to private vehicles, coaches, ferries, trains or flights. Your ticket should show if a stop is a transit stop. If your journey involves a transit stop in a country not on the travel corridor list, you will need to self-isolate when you arrive in England if:
- New passengers get on or new people get into the private vehicle.
- You or other passengers get off the transport you are on, or out of the private vehicle, and mix with other people, then get back on.
You don’t need to self-isolate beyond normal timescales if, during your transit stop in a non-exempt country:
- No new passengers get on.
- No-one on-board gets off and mixes with people outside.
- Passengers get off but do not get back on.
You don’t need to self-isolate if you travel through a non-exempt country and you don’t stop in the country. If you do make a stop, you don’t need to self-isolate if:
- No new people get into the vehicle.
- No-one in the vehicle gets out, mixes with other people, and gets in again.
Since Spain was one of the first countries added to the UK's quarantine list from 26 July, a few of the most recent additions have been Austria, Belgium, the Bahamas, the Balearic and Canary Islands, Croatia, France, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands and Trinidad and Tobago. For the latest updates on the travel corridors and requirements for travellers, please visit GOV.UK and for foreign travel advice visit GOV.UK
Austria, Croatia and Trinidad and Tobago have been been removed from the travel corridor list with effect from 4am on Saturday 22 August 2020 to avoid quarantine restrictions. From 4am Saturday 22 August, Portugal is returned to the safe travel corridor list. Scotland has added Switzerlnd to its list of countries requiring quarantine.
The following countries were removed from the exempt list from 4am 29 August 2020 Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland. From 4am 9 September 2020 the following regions were removed from the exempt list Crete, Lesvos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos, Zakynthos.
From 4am Saturday 12 September French Polynesia, Hungary, Portugal and Réunion will be removed from the travel corridors list. Sweden to be added to the list at 4am Saturday 12 September.
From 4am Saturday 26 September Curaçao, Denmark, Iceland and Slovakia will be removed from the England travel corridors list.
Holidaymakers affected by the quarantine rules can chose to stay for the remainder of their holiday and will have to self-isolate upon their return. Those travelling from affected countries are asked to complete a form providing an address where they will be self-isolating for 14 days and can be fined £100 for failing to provide these details. One in five eligible passengers will be called or texted to check they are following the rules.
People who do not self-isolate can be fined up to £1,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and £480 in Scotland. There are fines up to £5,000 for persistent offenders.
Health measures and quarantine rules are set separately by each nation within the UK, please click on the separate links to view these: England; Wales; NI & Scotland.
Which Workers Are Exempt From The Quarantine Rules
Regardless of their country of origin, there are a number of people exempt from the quarantine rules:
- Road haulage and freight workers.
- Medical and care professionals providing essential healthcare.
- Seasonal agricultural workers if they self-isolate where they are working.
- UK residents who ordinarily travel overseas at least once a week for work.
What Pay Should Employees Receive During Quarantine?
Sick Pay Rules
The government have said that they expect employers to show flexibility and not penalise those employees who are following the new quarantine laws and self-isolating. Despite this expectation, the official guidance states that employees are not entitled to sick pay if self-isolating upon their return to the UK.
An employee is only entitled to COVID-19 sick pay (subject to eligibility) if they:
- Display symptoms of COVID-19.
- Self-isolating because they have symptoms of the virus.
- Living with someone who has symptoms of the virus.
- Self-isolating because they have been instructed to do so through the test and trace system.
- Shielding because they are in the extremely vulnerable group.
COVID-19 sick pay can only be claimed if a previous claim has not been made for that employee through the Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme.
Provision For Sick Pay In The Contract of Employment
Depending on the wording for the provision of sick pay in the contract of employment, employers may decide on a discretionary basis to pay contractual sick pay or full pay for periods of quarantine in order to encourage staff not to work. However, they may also decide that it would not be appropriate to extend any discretion to pay sick pay in circumstances where the employee travelled abroad voluntarily and could have avoided the consequent quarantine restrictions. Whatever decision you reach, this must be applied fairly and consistently across your workforce, you cannot pick and choose who receives this.
If the employee does not qualify for SSP, the pay options for the 14 day quarantine period are:
- Use any accrued holiday remaining.
- If an employee can work from home where possible then they can be paid as normal.
- If their 'normal' job cannot be done from home, explore if there is anything else that the employee can do remotely to benefit the business and which would enable the employee to remain on their normal pay.
- Unpaid leave.
If unpaid leave is the only option available, the employer should demonstrate in any communications that all options have been considered before arriving at this decision. If this is a case for financial hardship, then this position can be considered for a company crisis loan if available.
How Should Employers Prepare For Quarantine Situations
Many employers might consider introducing new annual leave policies with immediate effect, explaining that this is necessary given the nature of the pandemic and speed at which decisions have been made. This might be best communicated directly to staff, perhaps face-to-face by line managers, and then followed up by letter or email.
The communications could also emphasise that anybody who is going abroad is doing so at their own risk and that the employer has brought in this new annual leave policy as they have a duty of care to their employees.
If employees knowingly go to an area on the well-publicised quarantine list, then this could be subjected to the company's disciplinary process.
Can You Stop Employees Travelling Abroad?
After months of lockdown many people were eager to grasp the chance to enjoy an overseas holiday. Travel restrictions are a fast moving area of change for the government and sadly many holidaymakers are not being offered refunds for cancellations. Despite the risk of travelling to areas that could change from 'safe' to 'unsafe' overnight, employees still wishing to travel overseas could firstly discuss their options with their employer.
An employer can stop an employee from travelling abroad as long as they give the required notice, which should be twice as much notice as the time the employee is going to be off, for e.g. 2 weeks' notice for 1 week's leave. Make sure you have good solid reasons for doing so and check that your insurance will cover the cost of their holiday as you will need to bear these costs.
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