Are you ready to deal with the consequences of employee holidays abroad this summer?Isobel Washington
Travel operators selling holidays abroad are hoping that this year’s summer holiday season can be saved.
Personally I’m happy to say put in the UK this summer, but we know that many people are desperate for guaranteed sun and a more exotic location.
Foreign holiday plans are being discussed and bookings made whilst we wait for Government restrictions on foreign travel to be lifted and the anticipated traffic light system be announced..
But wait…… amongst this sea of excitement, does your workforce know what your policy is on dealing with any mandatory quarantine periods following their holiday abroad? Are your expectations clear or have you still to think about how you will deal with these scenarios? If you work in HR, you know how sacred holidays are to your workforce and how they can be causes of discontent in ordinary times, let alone after all the heartbreak and frustration of the past year.
To avoid any confusion or unnecessary upset, you need to have a clearly communicated and documented policy on foreign holidays and quarantine so that your employees can factor this into their plans and budgets. A key issue is to understand that any mandatory period of quarantine upon a return to the UK from foreign travel abroad automatically extends the time period the individual employee needs to be away from the workplace.
If your employees have been unable to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, they are not going to be able to work from home whilst subject to a mandatory managed hotel quarantine or a home based quarantine upon their return. In these circumstances, the individual employee would have to book a further period of leave to cover the quarantine period adding to the period of approved leave the employee must secure in advance of their departure for sunnier climes.
As their employer, you can choose to reject or approve a period of leave. Can your workplace accommodate a further likely 10 days away from the workplace on top of a two week holiday if they need to quarantine? Remember, any quarantine period is mandatory and subject to criminal sanctions if breached.
Quarantining employees could potentially be furloughed (subject to compliance with existing qualifying rules) but as an employer do you really want to do this?
Think about it… you will be claiming a proportion of their wages via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) scheme but also paying for their national insurance contributions and pension contributions for the period of time spent on furlough.
As we hit peak holiday season, also remember that the CJRS becomes less generous from mid-summer: whilst employers will continue to receive grants of 80% up to a maximum of £2,500, from July 2021 employers will be required to make a contribution of 10% and a 20% contribution in August and September and as it stands, the scheme is set to end on 30 September 2021.
Personally, I think it would be damaging to employee relations to allow your employees to be furloughed during any mandatory quarantine period as it pits those employees who are holidaying in the UK against those who have chosen to holiday abroad.
Employees are not entitled to SSP if they are self- isolating after returning to the UK ( unless they are suffering from Covid-19) and cannot work from home. You could choose to pay the employee an equivalent SSP sum (£96.35 per week) for any quarantine period but crucially, you would not be able to claim for any reimbursement under the Covid-19 SSP scheme. Once you take this on board, many employers will refuse to offer furlough for quarantine periods from both a moral and economic perspective.
Even if you do approve such extensive periods of leave, are your employees willing to spend a further chunk of their annual leave being quarantined in a UK-managed quarantine hotel or at home? What if an employee doesn’t have sufficient holiday to cover a period of quarantine? Will you allow the employee to take it as authorised unpaid leave? What if you reject a holiday request and your employee carries on with their two weeks’ in the sun and for example, a 10 day period in quarantine? How will you deal with it? Ensuring you consider all these permutations in advance and communicating your approach to your workforce is really important. In the event of disciplinary action, being able to evidence a clear line of communication on foreign holidays and quarantine is crucial to the soundness of any disciplinary sanction.
With summer 2021 having the potential to dramatically impact workplaces across the UK, getting your policy on foreign holiday and quarantine this year is really important. Without one, summer 2021 could be full of frustration for employers and employees alike. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any of our LexLeyton team at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat through any of the issues raised in this article or to ensure you get your policy right