People who headed to Spain when it was on the Government’s ‘safe’ list will now have to self-isolate for two weeks on their return to the UK.
The change in the rules – as a result of an increase in coronavirus cases in the country – means people who booked holidays will have to take two more weeks off work unless they can do their jobs remotely.
Worse, they have no automatic rights to be paid for this time, and could even be laid off.
Current rules state it’s up to companies to decide if workers get normal pay, are forced to take two more weeks of holiday entitlement or class quarantine time as unpaid leave.
The Government’s website states: “You cannot get SSP (Statutory Sick Pay) if you’re self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK and do not need to self-isolate for any other reason.”
Employment law specialists Peninsula Group said: “Forced unpaid leave UK can take place.”
But it warned bosses they needed to be careful if implementing it.
“Your right to do this must be pre-established with a contractual provision in place. Without this, you’ll need to get your employee to agree to the change,” it explained.
“There’s no limit to how long you can lay-off an employee, but if they’ve been away from work for four weeks in a row, or six weeks within a 13-week period where no more than six weeks are consecutive, then they can apply for redundancy pay and resign from their position.
“If the employee has worked for you for longer than a month, they may also have entitlement to statutory guarantee pay, which is currently £30 per day for a maximum of five days.
“You should avoid asking staff to take unpaid holiday, coronavirus or otherwise.”
It came after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned bosses to follow the rules when it came to quaranting.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “Employers just like employees have got to follow the law and I don’t think you could be laying people off or taking penalties against people for adhering to the law.
“If someone has followed the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating in the way that they should, they can’t have penalties taken against them.
“You cannot be penalised in this country lawfully for following the rules and the law that’s in place and obviously we expect employers to respond flexibly and in an understanding way to those who, let’s face it, have enforced on them because of the risk that we’ve seen in Spain, those quarantine rules.”
But not everyone was convinced.
Employment lawyer Sarah Chilton: “I do not agree what the Foreign Secretary said. I think there may be some protection for workers but we can’t say there is blanket protection for workers coming back.
“I think any workers are exposed of the risk from some sort of adverse treatment from their employer – being that not being paid for their period of quarantine or potentially worse, facing potential dismissal.”
She added that the laws are far from clear cut.
“Anybody who is returning, who is worried about it should speak to their employer to agree a way forward because there’s no obvious protection,” Chilton said.
“There may be a number of different protections which are complicated…but there’s nothing obvious in the law that says no one can have their pay docked during that period or nobody can for example be dismissed.”
She said anyone worried should first see if they can work from home.
“If they can’t work from home they need to speak their their employer to see if there is scope to treat the additional period of quarantine as some sort of authorised paid leave, obvious one being annual holiday which would come out of annual entitlement,” Clifton added.
“They may be able to treat it as contractual sick pay but they’re not entitled to statutory sick pay under the government sick pay regime.
“I do think it’s important for workers and employers to be negotiating and discussing this.”