As the current turbulent period the world has faced as a result of Covid-19 is slowly returning to normal we are seeing travel restrictions lifted. As a result employees who feared holidays will be cancelled may be able to still get away or business trips to see international clients or projects could once again take place however, there is still further complications that need to be considered.
From 8 June 2020 it is a requirement for any individual (subject to some exceptions) entering the UK to complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form. This cannot be submitted until 48 hours before the arrival time in the UK. The purpose of this form is to enable the government to contact passengers to inform them if anyone on their transport had tested positive for Covid-19. Further to this requirement most individuals will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. This can cause difficulties when it comes to returning to work. Employers who require their employees to travel on business should ensure they are aware of the new provisions which are likely to continue and develop.
When dealing with the 14-day quarantine period employers need to consider how they manage their employees.
Firstly, the employer must ensure they do not force an employee to attend the workplace. The employee is in self-isolation and are required to remain in self-isolation for the 14-day period. To force them to attend a physical workplace could be seen to be encouraging them to commit a criminal offence. Employers therefore need to exercise caution.
The current government guidelines remain that if any employee can work from home they should do so. The same applies to those who are self-isolating following return from the UK. If an employee can work remotely from home then the employer can require them to do so.
If an employee is unable to work from home it can make the situation more complex and require further consideration. If the trip were a personal one the employer could consider requiring the employee to use their annual leave entitlement if they have sufficient outstanding entitlement and subject to any contractual provisions to cover this period. Another an option to the employer could be to require the employee to take this as unpaid leave. If the trip is a business trip the employer should be aware of the current provisions before sending their employees and be aware of the requirement for the employee to isolate upon their return.
It is clear employers will need to assess the current travel restrictions and provisions as they may be from time to time when managing their employees and annual leave as the lock down provisions are lifted. It is currently anticipated that the 14-day quarantine period may be exempt for certain countries including Portugal, France, Italy, Greece and Spain.