Should I stay or should I go now?
27th July, 2020
The question of quarantine…
The events of last weekend’s short notice Government imposed quarantine for anyone returning from Spain highlight how policy can change overnight, resulting in uncertainty for both employers and employees.
Spain joins a number of other countries on the quarantine list.
Employers must not dismiss or otherwise subject an employee to a detriment for asserting a statutory right to take holiday.
The Government has asked employers to treat this situation with understanding. However, in circumstances where a pre-authorised quarantine period has not been agreed and an employee is unable to return to work (or work from home) due to quarantine restrictions – what are the options available to an employer?
Employers could agree:
- An exceptional extended holiday period (assuming the employee has sufficient accrual);
- Authorised unpaid leave
Where quarantine is required by law, an employer is not currently obliged to pay an employee for this period. If however, an employee is not obliged to quarantine but the employer chooses to impose this restriction, it would be obliged to pay in full for this period (as with any other suspension).
If the employee has been placed on furlough leave and remains eligible, the employer may (assuming it remains unable to maintain its workforce because its operations have been affected by Covid19) be able to agree a further period of furlough leave with the employee. Furlough pay reduces from 1 August and is only available until 31 October 2020.
The Treasury Direction states that no CJRS claim can be made in respect of an employee if it is abusive or is otherwise contrary to the exceptional purpose of CJRS.
Quarantine is not currently covered as sickness absence and so it is clear that SSP is not payable in circumstances where an employee is not otherwise unwell or ‘self-isolating’.
Employers may wish to consider the following:
- Update the Covid19 Risk assessment and awareness training as appropriate in light of the latest announcements;
- Keep up to date with Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice and advise employees to check information updates;
- Update holiday policies (and associated Data Privacy Notices) to address the issue of quarantine:
- Request confirmation of holiday destinations so that an employer can agree on quarantine arrangements that may be necessary in advance to avoid/reduce last-minute rescheduling of work rota and/or alleged gross misconduct investigations for “unauthorised absence”;
- How and when to contact the employer whilst an employee is away in the event that an unplanned quarantine is imposed;
- Explain the options available to employees who are required to quarantine by law; and
- Any return to work testing arrangements in place.
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