Employee entitlements during quarantine
In light of the government’s announcement earlier this week that people returning to the UK from Spain would be required to quarantine for 14 days, it is important to clarify to employers what these employees are entitled to in terms of pay.
The government has insisted that no worker should be penalised for self-isolating. The official advice from the government is that employees are not entitled to statutory sick pay if they are self-isolating after returning to the UK.
The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said “We are changing the rules – the law is changed in relation to holidaymakers and travellers – and of course we expect employers show those employees who will have to quarantine because of the law the flexibility they need.”
If an employee who is forced to quarantine can work from home, the question of pay is slightly more straightforward. Employees working from home should be paid full pay as normal.
However, if they cannot work from home, the question arises as to what kind of leave they are taking and whether statutory or contractual sick pay will be payable. Employers may find that their employees rely on their goodwill. Currently there is no right to statutory sick pay for employees who are self-isolating for the sole reason of travelling back from a foreign country.
The contractual position is dependent on the wording of the provision for sick pay in the employee’s contract of employment. Where sick pay would not be payable under the contract, employers may decide on a discretionary basis to pay contractual sick pay for periods of quarantine in order to encourage staff not to attend work.
Alternatively, the quarantine period could be booked as a further period of annual leave, where entitlement allows, or taken as a period of agreed unpaid leave. If no agreement is made about the quarantine period, the additional absence may be considered to be unauthorised leave and lead to a disciplinary process.
Whilst we await clarification from the government as to what they plan to do in terms of statutory sick pay, it may be wise for employers to review their contractual policies and speak to employees who are planning on travelling to countries where a compulsory quarantine is in place.