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Holiday headache: quarantine, pay and more

Posted on: July 28th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

On Saturday, if you were in or planning to travel to Spain, you were told you’d have to quarantine on your return for 14 days.

Unless your employee is covered by one of the exemptions listed here, they’ll have to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they get a negative test result. If they don’t self-isolate, they could face a fine of £1000 (or £3000 if they change their location during self-isolation).

What are your options as an employer if your employee intends to travel to a non-exempt country or the exempt status of the destination changes while they’re out there?  

  1. Work from home arrangements: if they’re able to work from home, make sure employees are set up to be able to do so as soon as they arrive back in the UK – for example, making sure they’ve got all the equipment they need already at home.
  2. Unpaid leave: if they’re not able to perform their job from home, you could require them to take the 14 days as unpaid leave. The government guidance is really clear that they’re not eligible to receive SSP for that period.
  3. Cancel travel abroad/ change destination: you’re not going to make any friends doing so, but it’s possible to cancel an employee’s holiday leave by giving them at least as much notice as the holiday you want them to cancel (subject to what’s detailed in their employment contract). You could also require them to change their preferred destination. Always take advice before doing so as these actions could give rise to possible claims.
  4. Flexible furlough: if you don’t have sufficient work for them to do from home, you could look to flexible furlough them (providing that they’re eligible). However, HMRC could challenge your decision at a later date if there wasn’t a genuine business reason for them to be placed on flexible furlough. It could also be damaging for employee morale as other employees who have chosen not to risk travelling abroad are likely to have to pick up the extra load whilst their colleague is getting another 14 days’ holiday at furlough pay!

To minimise issues moving forward, make sure you have in place a safe return to work policy or a coronavirus policy which includes the requirement that employees confirm:

  1. their travel arrangements;
  2. where they are going so that you can establish the date their quarantine ends and make appropriate plans;
  3. if they’ve not already booked, that they don’t book travel abroad without first seeking authorisation from you; and
  4. failure to do so will be treated as a disciplinary matter.

If you’ve not already, click here to find out more about our policies.


This update is accurate on the date it was sent (28 July 2020), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.