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Post-holiday quarantine? Know your rights at work

View profile for Maureen Cawthorn
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If you’re planning to jet off for some last minute summer sun, you might be considering the implications of self-isolating when you return to the UK. Before you book that last minute getaway, it’s essential to understand the implications of post-holiday quarantining on your employment and your rights at work.

Unless you’re travelling from a country with a quarantine exemption, as soon as you arrive back in the UK, you’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days – this means not being able to leave the house to exercise, shop for food or go to work.

In such cases, your employment rights will depend on your employment status and the specific circumstances surrounding your absence. Talk to your employer before you book your holiday so that you are fully aware of any implications.

Can my boss tell me not to go on holiday abroad?

No. However, your employer they should be clear about how your decision to travel abroad will affect you when you return, e.g. by explaining that you will not be paid during your period of self-isolation.

Can my employer cancel my holiday leave to prevent me from travelling abroad?

Potentially yes. This will depend on your contract of employment or your employer’s holiday policy.

Unless either of these states otherwise, Working Time Regulations provide a mechanism for employers to cancel leave. Under these regulations, your employer must give you as much notice as the leave they wish to cancel, so if they want to cancel two weeks’ holiday leave, they will need to provide you with two weeks’ written notice. Your employer should explain why they have cancelled your leave and explain when and how you can re-book. In these instances, you can ask your employer to compensate you for any costs you have incurred.

Can I work from home during quarantine?

Where possible people should work from home whilst they are self-isolating – talk to your employer about this BEFORE you travel as your employer will need to agree to you working from home.

What happens if I can’t work from home?

If you can’t work from home, you must not return to your workplace (and your employer should not ask you to). Failing to self-isolate is a criminal offence which carries a potential fine of £1,000.

Am I entitled to be paid whilst self-isolating?

In most cases, anyone who cannot return to work or work from home is not entitled to be paid by their employer. During your period of self-isolation, unless you have coronavirus symptoms, you will not be entitled to statutory sick pay.

To avoid being out of pocket, if you have enough holiday entitlement, you could ask your employer if some/ all of your period of self-isolation could be deducted from your remaining holiday entitlement.

If you travelled abroad because of a family emergency, you may be able to take unpaid leave. Speak to your employer about this.

Can my boss fire me if I can’t return to work because I am self-isolating?

You do not have specific protection from being dismissed in these circumstances. However, if you have 2 years’ service or more, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal. Your employer would have to demonstrate that they had a fair reason for dismissing you and that they followed a fair procedure (including allowing an appeal).

Whilst not turning up for work is potentially a fair reason, employment judges are likely to be sympathetic if:

  • you returned to the UK to find quarantine rules were imposed whilst you were away
  • you self-isolated in line with government advice

A judge is less likely to be sympathetic if you chose to visit a country which already had quarantine rules imposed.

For expert employment law advice, please contact Maureen Cawthorn or James Hodgson at our Halifax office on 01422 339600.

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