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Do you get sick pay if you have to quarantine after returning from holiday?

Travellers returning from certain countries must self-isolate for 14 days

Sarah Young
Tuesday 28 July 2020 11:53
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Travellers returning to the UK from Spain on the last-minute quarantine rules

People returning from Spain will now have to self-isolate for two weeks on their return to the UK.

In March, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a blanket warning against all non-essential international travel, but as of 4 July, this has now been lifted for 67 destinations.

While Spain was originally on the list of exempt countries, the advice was suddenly changed on 25 July as the country reported a surge in new cases of Covid-19, leaving many people who happily jetted off there on holiday now confused about what this means.

The change in rules does not make travel to Spain “illegal” but it does mean your holiday insurance will most likely be invalid and if you go you will have to self-isolate for 14 days – including those returning from the Balearic and Canary Islands.

But what are your employment rights if you have to quarantine when you come back? Here’s everything you need to know.

What are the quarantine rules?

If you have returned from a country that is not exempt from quarantine rules, you must self-isolate for 14 days, depending on the country you have travelled from.

The GOV UK website explains that when you arrive in the UK, you will not be allowed to leave the place where you are staying for the first 14 days because it can take this long for coronavirus symptoms to appear.

If you’re travelling from an exempt country you will not need to self-isolate. The list of exempt countries is here.

However, the rules vary depending on where you are in the UK, so it is worth checking separate advice if you are returning to Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

During an appearance on BBC Breakfast, local government minister Simon Clarke said that anyone who travels abroad should do so with an understanding that they may be asked to self-isolate.

“All holidays have to be taken understanding that foreign travel in the middle of a global pandemic which has caused devastation across the world has to be conducted against the backdrop of the government's right to take steps to protect the UK,” he said.

“We've made enormous strides in this country over the last few weeks and we have now got the situation very largely under control.

“We cannot jeopardise that, we cannot render all the sacrifices that we've made redundant by failing to intervene to stop risk from being reimported from abroad.

“By all means go on holiday, but understand that there is a chance that you might be asked to self-isolate on your return.”

Are you entitled to statutory sick pay if you have to quarantine?

According to industry relations body Acas, whether your quarantine period impacts your work will be based on your work setup.

If your role allows you to work from home, then your work may not be affected and you can be paid as normal.

However, if you cannot do your job from home you may need to take extra annual leave to cover the 14 days of self-isolation.

Acas states that employees and workers “are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they're self-isolating after returning to the UK and cannot work from home.”

However, an employer can choose to pay an employee SSP – or a higher rate of sick pay – if they choose to.

Employers can also consider other options, including putting an employee on furlough for the time they're self-isolating (this would have to be a minimum of three weeks in line with furlough policy), if both parties agree.

Are you entitled to any other form of financial support?

Despite not being eligible for SSP, Downing Street has said that holidaymakers who miss out on work because of the quarantine period may be eligible for Universal Credit or employment support allowance.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson reiterated that the government expects employers to be “flexible” in allowing staff to work from home while self-isolating.

“Where this isn’t possible we would expect that many employers would have their own policies in place for quarantine and we know that some continue to offer full pay for all or some of the isolation period,” they added.

“But if there are people who need urgent support then they may be entitled to the new-style employment support allowance or Universal Credit.”

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has also urged bosses to follow the rules when it comes to employees having to self-isolate, adding that people should not be penalised 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,” Mr Raab told Sky News.

“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.”

What happens if you are already on holiday?

Many holiday makers were already in Spain when the UK government ordered a 14-day quarantine for returning visitors.

Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR, explains that anyone currently on holiday in Spain should get in touch with their employers to ensure they understand the need to self-isolate and to agree with them how the absence will be covered.

If you have a holiday booked, you should try to discuss the options with your employer before departure.

“Employers are permitted to cancel leave that has already been authorised, and some may choose to do this to prevent the employee from travelling abroad if it is thought that the extra absence cannot be accommodated”, adds Mr Price.

When can you claim sick pay because of coronavirus?

You are entitled to claim SSP if you are unable to work and you are:

  • self-isolating because you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms
  • self-isolating because you have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that you’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus
  • staying at home because you’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus – in other words ‘shielding’

What happens if you break quarantine rules?

Travellers can be fined up to £1,000 for breaking quarantine rules.

However, the National Police Chiefs' Council recently confirmed that as of 20 July, only one person has been fined for not self-isolating after arriving in England.

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