Employer Guide: When staff can’t return to work after their holiday

return to work
Guidance for Employers on how to handle employees who cannot return to work after travelling abroad due to government imposed COVID travel restrictions.

A quick 5 minute advice sheet on how to handle employees who cannot return to work after travelling abroad due to government imposed travel restrictions!

Can I force an employee to return to work if advised to quarantine following a holiday? 

In essence no, this is not just guidance.  It is a criminal offence not to isolate and attracts a £1k fine if breached. However they could work from home if appropriate.

Do I have to pay them?

At this point we don’t know. The current stance is that if they are not able to work and they are not sick then they don’t technically qualify for wages or Company or statutory sick pay.  However the government may change the rules re SSP, as we have already seen them do multiple times this year.

Can I tell employee not to go abroad on holiday?

Not reasonably, but you can be clear of the consequences if they do go i.e. an extended period of unpaid leave, or using any leftover annual leave if they have to quarantine or are unable to get back.

Can I dismiss if someone is unavailable for work due to restrictions after going abroad?  

It is an employee’s responsibility to be ready and willing to work so for an employee with less than 2 years service then you are generally likely to be ok.

With more than two years’ service a dismissed employee may have a claim for unfair dismissal, and unfortunately we do not know the attitude of the Tribunal in this situation. There may be less sympathy towards an employee who travels to a country with pre existing travel restrictions imposed as they have effectively made themselves knowingly unavailable for work.

General tips:

  • encourage staff to notify you if they intend to travel abroad so you can discuss the potential consequences/ arrangements. 
  • make them clear of their reporting obligations if they cannot return to work, and clarify whether they will be able to take leave if they have to quarantine etc.
  • in the event of a dispute take advice about individual circumstances before formal action

Still got questions? If you need any help, let us know!

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