Holiday Headaches For Employers

Going on holiday at the moment is stressful.

Will we still be able to go? If we can’t, will we get our money back? If we can, will some new restrictions come in part-way through our break, meaning we have to quarantine on our return?

While it’s a headache for the holiday-goers themselves, it’s arguably even more of a headache for the employers who are trying to deal with a large amount of holiday accrual, the uncertainty of their staff returning from abroad if they do go away, and, at the same time, attempting to get their businesses back on their feet.

It’s safe to say that staycations are definitely rising in popularity, but what about the staff who are determined to go abroad – how should employers deal with them?

To help, we’ve set out some frequently asked questions, along with their answers.

What are the rules on quarantining?

When you arrive in the UK, you are not allowed to leave the place you’re staying in for the first 14 days, unless you’re arriving from an exempt country (which are constantly changing, so it essential for your staff to check before they fly).

If my staff do go abroad, and have to quarantine on their return, can they still work?

Quarantining or self-isolating means you can’t leave the place you’re staying in, like to go to work for example. Therefore, staff can only work if they can work from home. 

Should my staff member tell me they are quarantining?

You should ask staff to let you know as soon as possible if they have taken a holiday, and will need to quarantine on return. You may then agree that they will work from home if it’s possible. If they can’t work from home, they should follow your absence procedures accordingly.

Do I have to pay them whilst they’re quarantining?

The answer to this largely depends on if they can work from home. If they can, then you should pay them as normal. However, if they can’t, they usually aren’t entitled to be paid. In those circumstances, it will either be unpaid, you could let them take more holiday, furlough them if they are eligible, or, if they are actually unwell, it will be treated as sick leave and paid accordingly.

Can’t I stop them going on holiday in the first place?

You can legally cancel employees’ holidays. Check their employment contract to make sure there are no special provisions included. If there are none, you can cancel their holiday by giving the employee as much notice as the length of the leave you wish to cancel.

For example, if they have two weeks of holiday booked, you should tell them it’s been cancelled at least two weeks before it was due to start. When doing so, you should clearly explain why you need to cancel the holiday. However, a word of warning – not only is cancelling holiday time likely to be very unpopular, but doing it unreasonably could result in staff looking to you for lost holiday money, grievances, or in the extreme, them resigning and bringing Employment Tribunal claims against you.

A different approach is to make them aware of the consequences of going abroad.

For example, if you are aware that they are going on holiday to an non-exempt country and will therefore have to quarantine on their return, while being unable to work from home, then you can make it clear that their period of self-isolation will be unpaid.

If the employee is of paramount importance to the business, and can’t work from home, you may also request that they don’t go abroad. Then, if they do choose to do so, it may become a disciplinary issue.

How should I approach holidays with staff?

You should clearly set out your position regarding holiday and your expectations of staff. This could be done, for example, in a company-wide email. Such correspondence should include:

• Asking staff to let you know if they’re intending on travelling abroad, and where to.

• Ensuring that staff, if they do go abroad and are required to quarantine on their return, let you know about it as soon as possible, and follow absence reporting procedures if required.

• The details of whether staff will be paid or not during their quarantine time.

If you need further advice on this topic, or any other employment issue (like perhaps COVID-19 related queries specifically), please get in touch with our Employment team.

Written By: Rachel Collins, Associate Solicitor, Nash & Co

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