Introduction to this document

Coronavirus overseas travel quarantine memo

Where a particular country is on the government’s red list or the individual is not fully vaccinated, employees returning from their overseas holidays must self-isolate at home for ten days or, in the case of red list countries, quarantine in a hotel for ten days. Use our memo to help manage the impact of the travel quarantine rules.

Key issues

There’s no requirement for employees to self-isolate if they’re returning from a non-red list country where they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, if returning from a non-red list country (unvaccinated travellers) or red list country (all travellers), they must self-isolate or quarantine for ten days starting from the day after they left the country, and this must be in a quarantine hotel if arriving in England from a red list country. One of the issues here is that countries can be added to the red list at any time, so employees may be required to quarantine in a hotel on return from a country that it was considered safe to travel to when they left the UK. Another is that an employee might take the risk of travelling anyway, even though they know their overseas destination is at risk of turning red or they’re unvaccinated. Plus, you can’t simply ban staff from taking their approved annual leave abroad, as that’s likely to be a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. So, what are your options?

Pay

If an employee can work effectively from home or otherwise remotely, it would generally be reasonable to permit them to do so (on full pay) during the self-isolation or quarantine period, and this is reflected in our Coronavirus Overseas Travel Quarantine Memo. However, if the nature of their job is such that they can’t work from home or otherwise remotely, they must not come to work as that would breach the rules. As they’re unable to work, they have no legal right to be paid. There’s also no entitlement to statutory sick pay (SSP) as it hasn’t been extended to returning travellers, and a contractual sick pay policy is unlikely to cover this situation either. Whilst you can choose to pay discretionary sick pay, you’re not obliged to do so, and our memo assumes that you won’t. If the travel overseas was work related, you should pay the employee during their subsequent self-isolation or quarantine as that has resulted from the requirements of their job.

Additional annual leave

If the employee has sufficient annual leave remaining, you could agree that they can take annual leave during the self-isolation or quarantine period, so our memo covers this option. However, you may wish to distinguish between employees who are caught out by changes to the red list whilst they’re abroad and those who choose to travel despite the requirement to self-isolate or quarantine on their return. Our memo includes optional wording if you want to make that distinction. The other option is to grant a period of unpaid leave to cover self-isolation or quarantine, again covered in our memo. Whatever you decide to do, you need to take a reasonable and fair approach to how you deal with the self-isolation or quarantine period.

Exceptional cases

Not everyone travelling abroad is going on holiday. An employee might need to attend, say, an overseas family funeral, and so do consider treating certain cases as exceptions to your general rules. Our memo provides for the employee to speak to their line manager in such cases to agree a plan in preparation for any self-isolation or hotel quarantine that may be imposed on their return.