Dealing with Employees Self-Isolating on Return from Spain

By Joanna Sutton

Senior Associate

At the weekend, the UK government announced that anyone arriving in the UK from mainland Spain and the Canary and Balearic islands will have to self-isolate for 14 days, due to concerns about a rise in Spanish coronavirus cases.

The government has emphasised that they expect employers to be flexible and employees should not be penalised for following quarantine and self-isolation rules.

This means that, in most circumstances, affected employees cannot be dismissed, but it does not mean that employers need to continue to pay their usual salary during the required self-isolation period.

So, what are the options?

Work from Home

If this is possible then it would be the easiest solution for both employee and employer. This option allows the employee to continue to receive full pay whilst ensuring the least disruption to the employer’s business. 

Consider If There are Other Duties the Employee Could Undertake From Home

Even if it is not possible for the employee to do their normal job from home, there might be other duties they could temporarily perform which could be of use to the business.

Take Further Holiday to Cover the Additional Time Off

This will ensure that employees can receive full pay but is likely to be unpopular with them as it would reduce the amount of annual leave remaining for them to take later in the year.

It may also cause operational problems for the employer by having the employee out of the business for an unexpected extended period.

Grant the Employee Paid Time Off

You could choose to allow the employee to simply take the 14 days off without it affecting their holiday allowance, but this is unlikely to be a popular option for most employers in the current economic climate.

Time Off Sick

There is no entitlement to statutory sick pay if an employee is self-isolating as a result of quarantine rules.

However, if they have coronavirus or are experiencing symptoms then they will be entitled to statutory sick pay paid at £95.85 per week.

Under the terms of their contract, an employee might be entitled to a certain amount of time off sick at full or reduced pay, often at the employer’s discretion.

As stated above, technically an employee is not sick if they are self-isolating and have no coronavirus symptoms, and so an employer might choose not to exercise their discretion and refuse to offer enhanced sick pay in these circumstances.

Authorised Absence with No Pay

As there is no legal right to be paid for time off when self-isolating, employers can simply authorise the employee’s absence, but not pay them, and this would be lawful. 

Put Them On Furlough Leave 

If the employee has previously been furloughed, an employer might decide to re-furlough them for the 14-day self-isolation period, subject to the employee agreeing to this.

Employers should consider deciding now what their policy will be for dealing with travel quarantine rules and the pay arrangements that will apply in order that these can be applied consistently.

This should be communicated to employees so that they are forewarned of the consequences that will apply, in order that they can make informed choices about their holiday destinations this summer.

For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact our Employment Team on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.