With Andorra, the Bahamas and Belgium being the latest countries to be removed from the exempt list, many employees are finding that they are having to self-isolate for 14 days on their return to England. As the decision to implement self-isolation when returning from these countries appears to be a last minute one, how can employers prepare for the self-isolation of these employees?

The options for employers will depend on whether the employee is “ready, willing and able to work”. This should not be problematic if the employee is able to carry out their work from home as in such circumstances the employee can continue to work at home under their normal terms of employment. However, some employers will see someone self-isolating as not “ready, willing and able to work” or may classify the as such in order to withhold payments.

What if the employee cannot work from home or are not “ready, willing and able to work”?

For those employees who are not ready, willing and able to work, or are unable to work from home, the employer will have a range of options.

These options include:

  1. Paying the employee their full salary for their 14 days in self-isolation.
  2. Pay equivalent of statutory sick pay, although you will not be able to claim this back from the SSP rebate scheme.
  3. Pay the employee their contractual sick pay.
  4. Put the employee on furlough for the time that they are self-isolating.
  5. Allow employees to take further annual leave to cover the 14-day self-isolation period.
  6. Enforce annual leave by giving the required amount of notice.

Should employees still be travelling abroad?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advise against non-essential travel, but this does not prevent employees travelling abroad.

Employers should consider setting out their policy and expectations of staff returning from countries on the exempt list so that they are aware of what may happen if the country they travel to is added to the list.

Employers can cancel leave that has previously been approved but this should be approached with caution as employees may request that the business compensate them for any cancellation charges.

Victoria Tallis, Paralegal

10th August 2020

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