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Travel announcements - Latest Updates

As of 19th July, a lot of changes have come into effect. With the lifting of restrictions and ‘Freedom Day’ having finally arrived, people will now look to celebrate the country coming out of what has been a very long and arduous 15 months since COVID began. Although COVID will be here to stay for the foreseeable future, we need to move forward and enjoy life without COVID restrictions – for many of us this includes travel.

The government are continuing to update the travel lists, moving countries within the traffic light system to determine the rules and procedures for UK residents to follow. But what is the traffic light system and what does it mean as of 19th July?


What is the traffic light system?

The traffic light system was introduced in May 2021, and placed countries into different lists with different rules regarding testing and quarantine periods upon return home to England.  Countries are placed into the 3 lists below:

  • Red list
  • Amber list
  • Green list

Which list a country is added to is based on a number of COVID-19 health metrics, such as number of vaccinations and rate of infection. The traffic light system is an effort to begin looking forward again, and slowly begin to open up travel between countries.

The UK has taken a very cautious approach to its lists, with an announcement every 3 weeks to highlight any changes; countries can be moved up and down the lists at any given moment, so it is always important to keep an eye on the country you are travelling to, as changes could happen overnight.


Red List

The government still advises against travel to red list countries due to rates of infection, number of cases as well as vaccination rates. If you do travel to a red list country, you must ensure that you book a quarantine hotel package for your return home for 10 days, 2 COVID-19 tests must be taken during your stay.

On arrival back to the UK, you are escorted from the airport to the hotel you have booked, and must stay for the duration of 10 days. If at any point you test positive you must quarantine for a further 10 days until you have a negative test. The cost for the hotel package is £1,750 per person.


Amber List

With the new travel rules that came in on the 19th July, the government no longer advise against travel to these countries, and you may now travel with different quarantine rules, dependent on whether or not you are vaccinated.

If you ARE fully vaccinated, then you no longer need to self-isolate upon return, but you must still follow the same testing rules as green list countries; a test before departure and a PCR test on or before the 2nd day of your arrival back to England.

If you are NOT fully vaccinated, then you must still quarantine at home for 10 days, as well as testing on day 2 and day 8 of your return.


Green List

To travel to a green list country, you must take a test before departure back to England , and on return must take PCR test on or before the 2nd day of your arrival back to England.

A PCR test is an official NHS test which is then sent to a lab to be checked, giving you an official clearance if you are negative. More information can be found here.

Quarantining and testing only relates to arrival back to the UK; you should still check the entry requirements at the destination of your travel, as not all countries have the same rules for UK travellers.

For more information on the differences, and a full breakdown of which countries are on which list, read more here.


How does this impact your employees?

Whilst keeping up to date with the travel announcements is very key, it is also important to understand what this can mean if an employee decides to go on holiday. What happens if a country suddenly drops down to the amber or the red list? What if they knowingly travel to an amber/red list country? Are you prepared?


Can they work remotely if they quarantine?

If an employee who travels to an amber/red list country and must then following protocol of booking a quarantine hotel for 10 days, are they able to continue working remotely? If the answer is yes, then the position you can take is fairly straightforward, as there won’t be any interruption to their ability to work once they have returned to the UK, even if they are quarantining.

If, however, they are not able to work remotely, due to specific reasons such as their role having a particular risk or supervisory elements, the situation can become a little more complex. You will need to determine whether it becomes the following:

  • Agreed-upon holiday entitlement
  • Statutory Sick Pay for any COVID related symptoms during quarantine phase (SSP)
  • No entitlement


A change in status mid-holiday

If the country they are travelling to suddenly becomes an amber or a red list country whilst the employee is in the middle of their holiday, and they must then quarantine on return, this can be simply classed as an unfortunate incident, and not an intentional one. In cases like these, the employer and employee can have a discussion as to what is agreed upon if this scenario happens, and could be classed as holiday entitlement or SSP if they have COVID related symptoms.


They knowingly have to quarantine upon return

If an employee knowingly travels to an amber or a red list country and they must quarantine upon return, and still decide to follow through, the employer has every right to refuse such a holiday request, if the employee is not able to work remotely upon their return. If the employee is taking the risk and is aware of the protocols which could prohibit them from continuing with their work on arrival, then they must accept that the employer’s position on this matter may not be a favourable one. This however should be considered on a case by case basis, and it could be a situation where both employer and employee have an understanding that it is a necessary trip that must be made. We would always advise you to discuss this with your employees before any holiday arrangements are made.


How can HR:4UK help?

If a situation arises with an employee and you are not sure what the best course of action is, or you want to decide from now how you will handle any of the above situations, HR:4UK is here to help. We offer COVID holiday policies that help to iron out these details so that you are covered in any given situation. Speak to us today for advice and how we can support you on 01455 444222 or email