On Friday 7th May 2021 it was all about international travel. We learned about the Government’s plans for green, amber and red list countries from 17 May 2021 should people wish to travel overseas. These are plans for England, and we are yet to learn what will be in place for those who live in Scotland and Wales.
How much of an issue do we think this will be?
There’s no doubt in my mind, people will travel this Summer. I am certain that many families will want to get away and many people will want to see their family who live overseas. However, I do not think that we will see huge numbers of people travelling if they have not even received the first vaccine. Factors such as cost of the holiday, cost of any associated tests etc, travel insurance, worries about being on a plane, a concern over delays (that thing called Brexit) will all play a part in people’s decision making. In addition the idea of many hours queuing in an airport where Borderforce is undertaking 100% checks on arrivals doesn’t make anyone excited to travel overseas in this house. Swansea here we come!
So what are the rights of the employee and employer if someone is travelling abroad over the Summer months?
Employees will request holiday. In many cases they will have already requested holiday from work during the Summer months. You will have authorised this paid leave. How they choose to use that booked holiday is very much their business. If they decide, at the last minute, to travel overseas you will not be able to stop how they spend their authorised holiday. That being said an employee doesn’t have the right to request 5 days holiday, knowing full well they will be unavailable for work for many more days due to a mandatory period of self isolation/quarantine on their return.
Can I say no to a holiday request if I know that they will travel overseas when off?
Employers have a lot of flexibility as to what holidays they authorise and what they do not. However the employment contract is based on trust and confidence and employers should not refuse a holiday just because they do not want an employee to travel, particularly if it is to a green country. You would be able to refuse a request if you could demonstrate that you believed they would be away for longer than the period they are requesting as leave.
If an employee travels to Portugal (a green country) can you refuse them returning to work because there isn’t an isolation period?
Employees who travel to green countries won’t need to self isolate/quarantine on their return to England. If you refuse to allow an employee who has travelled to a green country to return to work following their trip you will have to pay them in full for them to stay at home. Even then there is a slight risk that if you do, and if they have more than 2 years service that they resign and claim constructive dismissal.
What happens if I suspect they have travelled to an amber country but not told me in advance?
We understand that those travelling from an amber country will be required to provide documentation on their return to England at the border. They will be self isolating on their return. We very much doubt that an employee will attempt to attend work when they should be self-isolating. They would know that they are not allowed to leave their place of isolation on their return to England and will have declared that they will stay at home. Social media is your friend here, and keeping it quiet would be very difficult in 2021. You can’t make them come to work when they should be self-isolating (that may well be an offence as it was last year). You can however address their absence as unauthorised unpaid absence.
Can I ask those who have travelled to a green country to take a LFT on their return to work?
There’s nothing to stop you asking them to take a lateral flow test on their return (they can refuse). In addition you can ask them to work at home, if you have work that can be done from home, but you cannot punish them because of their trip.
Can I furlough them?
Furlough, while it is still accessible for certain eligible employees, is permissible only when you do not have work for someone due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. If you furlough someone and the reason for furlough is not correct, you risk your furlough claim and an investigation into previous claims you have made with HMRC.
So what do we advise?
Well, whilst its your choice, we recommend that whilst levels of infection remain low that you are fairly relaxed about your staff going to green list countries. After all you have in place the Actions for Early Years Providers to keep all staff safe and if people are travelling its unlikely your parents and staff will be unduly concerned if they learn your staff are also travelling to green list countries.
If you need any advise on any aspect of managing the pandemic please do not hesitate to call us on 01527 306066.