HR · 11 August 2020

Spain quarantine: Do I still have to pay my employees if they self-isolate?

As of Saturday, 25 July, the coronavirus travel rules were changed following a spike in new cases in Spain. This change came into force less than six hours after it was confirmed and requires returning travellers to self-isolate for 14 days or risk a fine ranging from £1,000 to £3,200.

Holiday makers returning to the UK will have to provide an address where they will stay for two weeks. During that time, they cannot go out to work, school, shopping, public areas or have visitors, except for essential support.  The change in rules will be reviewed no later than 16 August 2020.

Laura Kearsley, partner and solicitor in the employment team at law firm Nelsons, discusses what this means for employers – and whether they’re expected to pay for the employee’s absence during the quarantine period.

What about employees who are still planning to travel?

Thousands of Brits who had holidays to Spain booked over the coming weeks are now faced with a dilemma about whether or not their holiday can, or should, still go ahead.

If they are able to work from home upon their return without any impact on the business, you should permit this. However, if this isn’t possible, you must decide whether you will allow extra leave for this period. Ultimately, the decision rests with you as to whether or not you do this or whether you ask them to that time as unpaid leave.

Although the government has asked employers to be sympathetic to anyone affected by this measure, there is no legal requirement for employers to be so and the financial reality might dictate otherwise.

If a plan is not agreed before your employee travels and they have to quarantine when they’re due back at work, this is classed as being absent without authorisation and can be considered a disciplinary offence.

It’s worth bearing in mind that you need to be careful that you’re not seen to be encouraging employees to breach the quarantine rules.

Do I need to pay my employee if they’re self-isolating?

Post-travel self-isolation is not included within the guidance on sick pay for employees who cannot work due to the coronavirus. This means that unless your employee is ill, they will not be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) and you will not be entitled to reclaim any pay under the SSP rebate scheme.

Should I contact my employees while they’re self-isolating?

There is no rule to say that you shouldn’t contact staff when they’re off to discuss any work issues. In fact, employers are under a duty of care to check in with those who are absent. Regular contact with your staff during the quarantine period will also help to ensure a smooth return.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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