There is a lot of talk surrounding airlines and resuming international non-essential travel. Many airlines are stating that they expect their flights to be back up and running for the peak July and August holiday season. And, whilst the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is advising against all but essential travel across the world and has issued a Covid-19 exceptional travel advisory notice which advises anyone travelling abroad to return home now, there will be some employees who will certainly still want to take their annual leave abroad.

As an employer, you can instruct employees to refrain from work-related travel and encourage compliance with government guidance, however, there is no right for an employer to instruct an employee to not travel for personal reasons.

As an employer you need to ensure that you take a consistent and fair approach in dealing with those employees that opt to holiday abroad and have to then self-isolate on their return.

Pay during mandatory self-isolation

There is no legal requirement to pay an employee during the 14-day self-isolation period upon re-entry to the UK.

If your employee holidays abroad and they can work from home on their return for the 14-day self-isolation period they should be paid as normal.

Where the employee cannot work from home, they cannot attend the work place either as it is a criminal offence not to self-isolate. There is not entitlement to pay as it likely that this situation will be covered by an employer’s enhanced sick pay policy or any other pay provision.

At the present time, there is also no entitlement to SSP. It is possible that complying with self-isolation on entry to the UK will be added to the list of circumstances eligible for SSP when the new rules come into force, but for now, this leaves employees and employers in a difficult position.

If employees self-isolate after a period of work travel, it would be reasonable to pay for this period as the employee’s situation results from the requirements of their job, and at a request to travel by the employer.

Managing annual leave

Employers will also need to consider how to manage annual leave requests and bookings in order to take account of the additional 14 days away from the workplace owing to self-isolation.

Employers can cancel previously authorised leave by providing notice of the same number of days as the holiday the employee wanted to take (e.g. 14 days’ notice to cancel 14 days of leave). It is unlikely that providing such notice would deter an employee from going on an international holiday. Furthermore, an employer should, however, be careful before they give such notice as. Doing so without a proper business reason and appropriate compensation could be a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence.

An employer should adopt a clear policy regarding the use of annual leave where the compulsory self-isolation period applies. Such considerations may include removing any limit on how much annual leave can be taken in any one period but also distinguishing between: (i) holiday requests booked before lockdown, where employers may offer a period of unpaid leave as a gesture of fairness rather than requiring additional annual leave to be used; and (ii) requests booked since lockdown was implemented and with full knowledge of the mandatory self-isolation period on re-entry.

Employers might be able to refuse/revoke holiday approvals where there is a clear business reason to do so for example where the period of holiday plus the 14-day isolation means a workflow/process is no longer manageable.

When drafting a policy, an employer should bear in mind that not everyone who plans to travel abroad will be doing so for the purpose of a holiday; they may travelling to attend a funeral or visit a sick relative. An employer should consider applying discretion in such circumstances.

What is of utmost important is ensuring that the policy is clear and is applied consistently in  order to avoid grievances or complaints of discrimination.

If you have any queries as a result of the issues discussed in this article please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team on 01926 355560, email or complete the contact us form here