COVID-19: How should employers handle mandatory staff quarantine?

On Saturday 25 July, the Government announced that anyone returning from mainland Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands must self-isolate for two weeks following a spike in coronavirus cases in Spain. Other countries may be announced at any time.

The announcement gave many people just five hours’ notice of the mandatory quarantine upon their return, with many now not able to work for the two week self-isolation period unless they can do so from home.

But how should employers handle the situation?

The Government has stated that nobody should be punished because they have to self-isolate, but this could cause issues as the official Government advice is that employees may not entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if they are self-isolating after returning to the UK.

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, 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 someone is following the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating the way they should, they can’t have penalties taken against them.”

But as there is currently no legal entitlement for an employee to continue on full pay in this situation, this could cause issues for employees as they consider how to maintain their pay levels during the 14-day self-isolation. However, some employees may insist on returning as they do not want to miss out on pay.

Considering official policies

Employers need to consider how to handle the situation, with the summer holiday period beginning, to clarify to staff members what the situation would be in the event of the sudden introduction of a mandatory quarantine period upon their return from a trip abroad.

Ensuring that annual leave is properly planned for is key.

Decisions will be down to the discretion of the employer, but given the short notice in which the Government made the announcement, it could present many with a difficult decision to make.

It may not be possible for staff members to work from home, to mitigate for self-isolation periods although it should be a serious consideration for all employers now. Those that can’t work from home may need changes to the workplace

For help and advice, contact our expert team at AGS HR Solutions today to discuss your requirements.