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Holidays to Amber List Countries - Employers and Holiday Requests

At the time of writing people visiting Amber List countries are currently obliged to isolate for 10 days on their return unless they pay additional monies to test to release on day 5. 

With the Summer holidays coming up, employers need to be aware of dealing with the necessary isolation and holiday requests in the appropriate way. 

Q: Can an employer refuse a holiday request on the basis of the need for self-isolation upon return?

A: Yes – an employer can refuse a holiday request if it can provide a legitimate business reason for the refusal.  This will be applicable if the employee cannot work remotely (i.e.) from home during the period of isolation/ have insufficient leave to take these days as holiday.   

Q: What pay is the employee entitled to when isolating?

A: If the employee can work upon return and whilst isolating – the employee should be paid their usual pay. 

If the employee’s role does not support remote working then there are a number of options:

i)               The employee could be placed on furlough for the period of isolation (if they have been previously furloughed and are eligible)

ii)              The employer could serve notice (twice the length of the proposed period of holiday) for the employee to take the isolation period as annual leave

iii)             Discretionary pay (may not be full) during the isolation period may be agreed

iv)             The employer is entitled to not pay the employee for this period – although the employer must continue to assess reasonableness – this may be appropriate for staff requesting holiday now to amber/ red list countries.  There is an argument it is unreasonable for employers to not agree to pay for isolation periods when the destination for new quarantine requirements is changed whilst staff are away or when a visit is for a family emergency / bereavement reason.  Advice should be sought.

Q: What penalties apply if an employer knowingly breaches self-isolation requirements and staff attend wok premises early.

A: If an employer is reasonably believed to be in breach of this requirement, they may be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). The fine is:

·       £1,000 for a first FPN

·       £2,000 for a second FPN

·       £4,000 for a third FPN

·       £10,000 for a fourth and subsequent FPNs

Other practical suggestions:

·       An employer could consider funding / part fund the early release PCR test after day 5 to enable their employee to return to work from an amber list country on day 6 of isolation.

·       At the end of the isolation period, it is wise to ask staff to confirm that they are not experiencing any COVID 19 symptoms

·       Perhaps drafting an addendum to an employer’s current holiday request policy – both including new rules on self-isolation, but also detailing payment options and reporting obligations.

·       Alternatively drafting a policy on travelling abroad and criteria relevant to decision making to ensure a consistent and non-discriminatory approach is taken to requests.

Posted on 10 June, 2021 by Ortolan

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