Documents to download

This is a fast-moving area and the paper should be read as correct at the time of publication (20.08.2020).

On 8 June 2020, the UK Government and devolved administrations made legislation requiring anyone arriving in the UK from outside of the Common Travel Area (the UK, Crown Dependencies and Ireland), or anyone who had been outside of the CTA in the past 14 days, to self-isolate upon their arrival at a specified address. The arrangements are commonly called ‘quarantine’.

A person subject to quarantine is legally required to self-isolate for 14 days and can only leave their specified address in very limited circumstances. There is no exception allowing a person to leave the house to go to work.

Travel Corridors

On 10 July, the Government introduced ‘travel corridors’ with several countries, many of them in Europe. These countries were added to an ‘exempt countries’ list. Anyone arriving in the UK from an exempt country would not be required to self-isolate, provided they had not visited a non-exempt country in the previous 14 days.

Removing countries from the exempt countries list

The Government has removed a number of countries from the ‘exempt countries’ list. This included Spain on 26 July, Luxembourg on 31 July, Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas on 7 August and France, the Netherlands and others on 15 August.

The announcements removing these countries from the list were made at short notice, with countries usually being removed from the list within one or two days.

As a result, many people have unexpectedly been required to self-isolate upon arrival in the UK. Unless these people can work from their specified address (usually their home), they will not be able to work, raising questions about their employment rights.

Right to pay

A worker’s right to pay is principally governed by the terms of their employment contract. If there is no express term on deducting pay, the general principle is that a worker is entitled to pay if they are ‘ready, able and willing’ to work, even if they perform no work.

However, it is not clear whether a self-isolating worker is ‘able’ to work. ACAS guidance suggests that those who cannot work from home are not entitled to pay.

In March, the Government extended the right to statutory sick pay to employees who are self-isolating because they or someone in their household is symptomatic. The right has not been extended to those who are self-isolating after travelling abroad.

Alternatively, a worker could ask to be furloughed, request to take more annual leave or agree with their employer to take a period of unpaid leave.

Protection from dismissal

Employees who have worked for their employers for two or more years are protected from unfair dismissal. Employment lawyers suggest that it would likely be unfair to dismiss an employee who cannot come to work because they unexpectedly had to quarantine. The case may be different if the employee knowingly travelled to a non-exempt country.

Many casual workers and employees who have not worked for their employer for more than two years are generally not protected against dismissal in this way. They can usually be dismissed by notice provided it is in accordance with the terms of their contract.

Cancelling annual leave

The removal of various countries from the exempt list may leave some worker wanting to cancel periods of pre-booked leave. ACAS guidance suggests that they can only do so with their employer’s agreement.

The Government has legislated to allow workers to carry over up to four weeks of annual leave into the next two leave years if it is not ‘reasonably practicable’ to take it in the current leave year because of coronavirus. This might capture workers who are no longer able to take annual leave because of a requirement to quarantine upon their return.

Documents to download

Related posts