AN NHS worker on her first holiday since the pandemic began has blasted the Government for not granting sick pay to travellers forced to quarantine after returning home from Spain.
Nicola Ley, 35, faces two weeks without pay after flying out to Malaga for a much-needed break following months of 45-hour weeks on the frontline.
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Nicola and her husband Karl, 38, were ready to enjoy a summer getaway in the Mijas hills in southern Spain with their two daughters, aged 10 and 12.
But within hours of landing they heard the Government had removed the country from its safe list and they would need to quarantine for 14 days when they return home – or risk a £1,000 fine.
And to make matters worse, Brits returning from Spain cannot claim sick pay – so key-worker Nicola is now worried about overspending on holiday due to fears of lost wages.
She said: “We have got a private pool so we’re trying to enjoy our holiday, but it’s been ruined by the two weeks when we get back.
“We don’t want to spend any money now because we’ve lost the next two weeks at our jobs.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with me for work, if they’re going to make me take leave or holiday and you’ve got that hanging over you.”
Instead of sick pay, Downing Street has said British travellers forced to quarantine may be eligible for Universal Credit or benefits of up to £74.35 a week.
It’s like closing down England because there has been an outbreak in Devon. It doesn’t make any sense.
Nicola said the new rules are “illogical” – particularly as her family are staying in a remote area with very few coronavirus cases.
She added: “They gave everyone two weeks’ notice to have to wear a mask in shops at home and yet they have given absolutely no notice whatsoever to people in Spain.
“It’s like closing down England because there has been an outbreak in Devon. It doesn’t make any sense.
“We’re in a private villa up in the mountains so it just seems illogical.”
Nicola has slammed the Government’s last-minute rule-change as a “kick in the teeth” as she and Karl face two weeks at home due to their jobs.
The mum-of-two said: “I physically can’t work from home because I work next to A&E on an urgent treatment reception.
“I know that we were doing testing for employees and their families, but whether they are going to let me come back or not I genuinely don’t know.
“I’m obviously needed in the hospital so I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“And my husband works as a professional carpet cleaner and can’t work from home either so he is going to have to cancel all of his jobs he’s got lined up for the next two weeks.”
Nicola added: “I’ve worked all the way through lockdown.
“I wasn’t allowed any leave at work and had to work all the weekends and bank holidays. My contract is 24 hours a week but I’ve been doing 45.
“We’ve only just been allowed to take leave again so we booked to go away thinking we would be okay as we are in a private villa and out of the way.
“But literally as soon as we got here we found out we’ve got to quarantine when we get back.”
It came as scores of other Brits ranted about the new measures and the chaos it means for work.
Neil Hunter, 45, from Sittingbourne in Kent, had booked a 10-day break to Lanzarote last December and was due to leave on Tuesday.
He said: “I work as a train driver and I don’t think my employer will accept me having to isolate due to going on holiday.
“I am insured, but unsure whether they’d accept that as a reason for not going, especially if Hays Travel don’t cancel for me.
“There’s no way I could afford to cancel myself.”
And Craig Cowgill, from Bury, Greater Manchester, fears he may lose out on pay from his role as manager of a small business.
Craig, who is due to fly to Gran Canaria on Thursday, said he will “still have to go in or not get paid” upon his return to the UK.
Almost 1.8 million holidays are likely to have been thrown into chaos by the new quarantine rules, according to travel company The PC Agency.
Among the mayhem, Jet2 has cancelled all holidays and flights to mainland Spain until August 17 after the quarantine-free air bridge was axed.
It comes just 24 hours after the company assured worried customers holidays would go ahead.
Jet2 is offering customers a full refund, the option to re-book with no admin fee, or a credit note.
Despite the onslaught of bad news, Nicola says she feels safer in Spain than she does in the UK.
She said: “We have to wear masks everywhere here but they are doing far more out here than they are at home.
“You are constantly aware of it here. It is far safer than at home.
“You can see that the welfare of everybody is paramount here.”
This is the second bit of bad luck the family has faced after travelling to Spain earlier this year.
Nicola and Karl flew to Torremuelle to celebrate her birthday and wedding anniversary in March, just as the country went into lockdown.
Their break was “ruined” after they were told they couldn’t leave their hotel – not even to go to the beach.
So they booked to go back for a family holiday after lockdown restrictions eased, only to be hit with new quarantine rules and potentially two weeks unpaid.
Danielle Parsons, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said: “Those returning from Spain who have suddenly discovered they have to quarantine are in a very weak legal position as their bosses don’t have to give them time off if they are unable to work from home.
“If you’re able to explain this to your employer they could offer you the chance to take annual leave or unpaid leave.
“However if this leads to a dispute the employee only has a claim to unfair dismissal if they have been with the employer for two or more years.
“Those who are self-employed will potentially have no recourse with income protection needing a longer period of time to kick in.”